I’m about to confess to something I know isn’t popular. But every year around this time I start to feel this debate bubble up inside of me and my husband is tired of listening to it. I think my shower walls are too (I make killer arguments in the shower).
I don’t want to rant here. That is not the purpose of my blog. But I have to come clean: I have gone shopping on Thanksgiving Day. And it was glorious!
For the record, I also love my family. I might even love them more than my indulgent consumerism. I know a lot of other people, including retail employees, love their families too and enjoy spending holidays with them.
But even so, I’m confused annually by the vitriol spewed at retailers who are open on Thanksgiving. The declarations of boycotts (as if it is humanly possible to boycott Target) usually reach a fever pitch around this time, with many people appalled these stores would steal Thanksgiving right from under their employees and, it seems, from every human being in the United States.
Obviously, no one is being forced to leave their families to go shopping. But yes, some employees might find themselves with no choice but to report to work. They do this alongside those who have always had to work on holidays — healthcare workers, law enforcement, firefighters, journalists and many others who have, what we call at my employer, “essential duties.”
No one argues for these employees to have the day off because of course we understand that illnesses, emergencies and the news don’t stop for turkey and cranberry sauce. But what about other places that are open and are arguably non-essential? I never hear anyone standing up for Starbucks workers. I go to the one near me on Thanksgiving morning to get some piping hot chocolate before I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s always packed. You can’t gear up for a long day with family without your latte!
Grocery stores are usually open for a good portion of the day as well. Again, I never hear the outrage over these employees having to work. Perhaps people want to make sure there is someplace they can go when they realize they forgot the carrots they need to make stuffing. And I totally agree! I remember working at my local grocery store on Thanksgiving in high school. I don’t believe I am permanently scarred by it.
Or what about movie theaters on Christmas? Is feeding the Hollywood machine somehow more acceptable and familial than fueling the Wal-Mart machine?
But when I try to identify why this issue really gets me so irritated, I think it comes down to this: We make assumptions that everyone has (or should have) the same family life or holiday traditions that we may have. We stand up for the worker’s right to spend this time at home with a family that perhaps he does not have. Or does not like. Or loves with every fiber of his being but knows he can better help his family by earning a paycheck that day.
I’m not saying the intentions from the public are not well-meaning, but they walk the line of also sounding so very out of touch. Yes, some employees are probably upset to miss the time with loved ones (and I’m sure all the ones who are willing to speak about it to the media are especially so), but I have to assume there are many others who accept this as part of their job. Perhaps some are even grateful for the chance to not spend the holiday alone.
And let’s not forget about the packed Starbucks. Many employers are only giving the public what we demand. We love our families, but we also love 60% off a Gap sweater.
I concede that Black Friday has gotten a little out of control. The fact that I can already shop Black Friday deals and it’s not even the week of Thanksgiving makes the whole thing a little anti-climactic. And really, Cyber Monday is the way to go. At least then I am only taking time away from my job. No one cares about that.
The good news for those concerned is it does seem that the Thursday openings have plateaued, if not waned. I’m sure some companies realize the PR backlash isn’t worth it or they just don’t make enough money to justify it. So maybe in few years this won’t even be an issue anymore.
In the meantime, I fully support everyone’s right to stay as far away as possible from Black Friday (or Thursday or week or month) and celebrate the holidays the way it is most meaningful for them and, should they be lucky to have one, their families. I also wish all employers treated and paid their employees fairly, but that is a wholly different and unrelated topic.
And if Thursday openings end up closing, then great. This rant (sorry!) isn’t in support of the retailers, as much as a wish we all worked a little harder to recognize the different needs and situations of people around us. Even when our hearts are in the right place, it never hurts to take a step back and consider what it is we are really concerned about.
However you celebrate, whenever you celebrate, whoever you celebrate with, and IF you even celebrate, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving (or Thursday)! (And don’t forget about Giving Tuesday!)