Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Plea to Save Thanksgiving

Enough of this insanity already
Yep, here it comes: another cranky ol' lady post. However, the controversy in the news lately over whether Walmart and other retail employees should have to work on Thanksgiving is weighing heavily on my mind.

Several years ago I worked in retail briefly during the Christmas season when I was laid off from my regular job. There's no way to put this nicely--it sucked. It's a thankless job where you're dealing with bitchy customers, bitchy managers and if you're lucky, getting paid $10 an hour to do so while being on your feet all day. I worked at a Crate&Barrel which had to be replenished every night after closing or the manager wouldn't allow us to leave. In fact, she locked us in until she was satisfied--something that I'm pretty sure is illegal.

But I digress--I think it's extremely offensive that anyone should have to work on Thanksgiving--or even Black Friday for that matter. What is up with this stupid obsession over Black Friday, anyway? Are we so greedy and materialistic that our idea of a good way to spend the day after turkey day is to wait in line for hours at night and scramble through the opening doors in a mad rush for the chance to get 40% off a flat screen TV? Would it kill retailers to remain closed for at least 24 hours to give their employees some well-deserved rest and a day to spend with family and loved ones? Can they really not take their minds off the almighty dollar for one day?

Thanksgiving is a day for this:


And this:


And this:

It is NOT, however, a day for this:


Or this:

Black Friday, by its definition, has been around since the 1960s. The name was coined in Philadelphia, and was used to define the pedestrian and automotive traffic that occurred in the city the day after Thanksgiving. At first, many stores would open earlier than usual to accommodate eager holiday shoppers--6 A.M. was the average start time. But in the past dozen years, that time has crept up to 5 AM...4 AM...even 3 AM. Now the standard opening for most retail chains is midnight, but some Walmart and Target stores are planning on opening earlier...at 8 PM which is technically still Thanksgiving Day. When will it end?

I think our grandparents and great-grandparents would be appalled by the spending spree spectacle that Black Friday has become. 

Somehow, like a pimple, it's grown into this humongous, overhyped holiday event of its own. I sure don't remember the day attracting this much hoopla when I was growing up. How nice it would be to force people to stay home until 8 AM on the day after Thanksgiving, actually R-E-S-P-E-C-T (as Aretha Franklin would say) the holiday, and give the retail worker a well deserved break and a full night's sleep. I wrote a while ago about the death of the Blue Laws and why we should bring them back. I absolutely hope this consumerism and greediness burns itself out and fast.

Plus, did everyone suddenly forget this year that shoppers have DIED during Black Friday mayhem? People have been trampled; a pregnant woman miscarried. So you could get your dirty mitts on a television set? Really???

Sadly, with so many Americans out of work, we know that if Walmart and Target employees went on strike in protest, the stores would have no problem finding replacements waiting in the wings.

I really hope the retailers come to their senses, or some laws are eventually put in place to keep them closed on a national holiday. In the meantime, while the shopping fools are freezing their asses waiting in the dark for a deal on an Wii Thursday night, I'll be warm in my bed sleeping off a turkey coma.

9 comments:

JZ said...

It's almost as if Thanksgiving doesn't exist anymore; the radio stations in Baltimore all started playing Christmas music on 11/16/2012. All of this is to satisfy the stores who want customers standing in line at 8:00 Thanksgiving night. People have indeed been hurt, fights break out, and folks are hardly brimming with Christmas Spirit on Black Friday.

I like Thanksgiving, it's nice that you have a day with the family, just to enjoy a meal and some time away from work to relax. I too would like to see a law passed that these retailers could not open until 6AM Friday at the earliest. Their employees deserve time with their families and a chance to rest up before the Christmas buying season begins.

SusieQT said...

Normally I am not one to propose more laws, but that is one I can get behind! A few years ago I got up early and did the Black Friday thing, and really I don't think I saved anything. All the really good deals are gone to the first couple of customers in the store. I prefer to do my shopping online, in my PJs, and whenever I choose!

Dr. JulieAnn aka The Modern Retro Woman said...

My SIL posted a photo on Facebook of all of the tents already pitched on the sidewalk outside of a Best Buy near her house in an affluent Los Angeles suburb. If we assume that the people pitching tents are from her neighborhood, then we can also assume that they have incomes well into the six-figures and can easily afford to buy a flat-screen tv even when it isn't on sale. So, they are giving up Thanksgiving, altogether, and are camping on a sidewalk for several days just so they can get a "bargain" on a low-quality item made in China.

But, you know, I don't want modern TV so I am less susceptible to commercials telling me that I have to "hurry" so that I "don't miss out!"

/end my old lady rant

dryheat45 said...

OK, while I do agree that the meaning of Thanksgiving (giving thanks for living in the greatest country in the world!) has been lost in the hoopla, more laws make me cringe. This is still America, and telling me I can or can't do something that causes no harm to others is, well, bogus. Black Friday is called such because that is often the day that retail companies go "into the black" on the books. Capitalism gets a bad rap, but it is the engine that runs the economy. It has become such an event because consumers have postively responded to the gimmicks that retailers have devised to drive in business. They know the "bargains" will soon be gone, but now you're in the store and will probably buy other items too. I do what SusieQT does, which is sit it out and shop online. That makes much more sense than making more unnecessary laws.

Pam@GoRetro said...

JZ--I know it, and a week ago I noticed a few houses already had Christmas lights strung and lit up while driving home from work. This is before Thanksgiving, with Halloween just barely behind us. It's mind boggling.

SusieQT--shopping online in your PJs sounds like the best plan to me! I agree that I don't see the point of showing up early on Black Friday if there's a limited number of a particular item and only the first few customers are going to have a chance at buying one.

Dr. JulieAnn--I know, I don't get the people camping out in tents, either.

dryheat--If a law helps prevent injuries and saves some sanity, then I wouldn't say it's unnecessary. One could argue that overspending hurts the economy, since people are buying things they cannot afford and racking up the credit card charges. But, to each his/her own.

Great comments, everyone! Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Luis said...

I'm from Mexico, so we don't have Thanksgiving and thus no Black Friday either but since last year there has been a new custom implemented by businesses called "El Buen Fin" (The Good Weekend) in which you get a lot of Black Friday-like deals. The difference is that it lasts 4 days instead of one so there is much less scrambling and there are no scenes of people waiting in line to get in the stores. It's also a week earlier than the American Black Friday taking place November 16-19.

Johnny Seagull said...

I'm a New Zealander living in the United Kingdom so Thanksgiving I only know through stays in the US. I worked for a large retailer in NZ in the late 90s and when they wanted to stay open 24 hours a days I said "You're crazy, who shops at 2:00am?". But people did. Sadly, shops open every hour of every day because the fool public want it. Hard lines for the people who work in retail.

memoryman said...

I have managed a retail store for many years. Its done a few things. Made the holidays meaningless to me is one, and I hate that. My company never closes, so there have been many times that I had to tell someone they had to work a holiday because it was their turn, making the holidays meaningless to someone else probably. The same old problem is when you are buried in customers on Xmas day they ask the same thing, "Why are you open on Xmas day?". Because you are standing in front of me, thats why.
And the doggone place has over 1000 customers every Xmas day. It will never go back to the way it was I'm afraid, as a matter of fact, it's getting worse. There is a scary word in the simple term consumer, "CONSUME"

Pam@GoRetro said...

Luiz -- I like the sound of your country's tradition called "El Buen Fin." That sounds much less stressful to have holiday deals over a four-day period then cramming it all into 24 hours.

Johnny -- It is indeed unbelievable that some people would shop at 2 AM. I suppose if you work in a job that has shifts outside of the average 9-5 position, that's the only time you can get holiday shopping done.

memoryman -- Your comments made me sad. I'm sorry to hear you have to deal with working on Christmas Day.

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