Saturday, November 17, 2012

'Black Friday' Migrates — in the Wrong Direction?

As Thanksgiving draws nearer, commercial establishments hoping to whip people into a shopping frenzy on so-called "Black Friday" have begun using a new ploy: opening hours earlier.

I'm not sure what people are calling it, but I'll call it "Black Thursday." And I am horrified.

Now, don't get me wrong. I benefit from those who work on Thanksgiving Thursday, and I'm grateful for the supermarket workers, restaurant workers and movie theater workers who spend a portion of their day taking care of my needs. But not every commercial establishment needs to lure their customers in with wanton abandon as do some retailers.

Retailers such as Target,  H. H. Gregg, Bass Pro Shop open on Thanksgiving day, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes earlier. Their workers, who have to show up before the store opens, wind up missing most of the day they could otherwise be spending with family and friends.

For those who choose to work those days, fine — I loved working Christmas Eve at the jewelry store and would gladly put in a 12-hour day, missing a few hours of the neighborhood party. However, that was my choice, and those who ran the store made sure those who celebrated the holiday had options.

The problem comes when employees do not have a choice. I could be wrong, but from the scale of "Black Thursday" hype, the number of employees working at those stores does not reflect a "voluntary" or skeleton crew. The cash registers are open, the shelves are full and the deals are cut-throat. These merchants are gunning for business, and their employees are conscripted.

Maybe employers make it up to them with fantastic wages. Maybe these workers don't mind skipping their own celebrations. Maybe some of these shoppers are what a friend calls "orphans," with no real plans and this is their Thanksgiving tradition.

Maybe I'm totally wrong for suggesting people not be required by corporate America to work on one of the biggest holidays on the calendar, where in years past parking lots remained empty and stores remained dark. And maybe, when people start expecting the "day after Christmas" shopping to begin on Christmas night, people will see the absurdity (though I suspect retailers will keep at least part of that day off the books so a truly skeleton crew can clean up after the eve-shoppers from the frantic night before).

It may be the wave of the future, where people choose to skip the "reason for the season" to line up outside of K-Mart to try to buy a camera on Thanksgiving for $15. But don't count me among them, and don't color me happy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your sentiment wholeheartedly. I faithfully avoid shopping on a holiday; unless I desperately need a food item or medicine from the grocery that can't wait until the next day. I have two relatives
(a married couple) with careers in retail and their whole lives are consumed from September to January. The stress and long hours are difficult for them and their kids. Its awful. We spend Thanksgiving afternoon with them and each year they have to work later that night. They never seem able to relax and enjoy Thanksgiving. At Christmas we never see them. They usually emerge again in mid January! Bless their hearts! On the other hand they are happy to be gainfully employed in these trying times. Perhaps that is the true reason people work holiday hours.