In the United States Thanksgiving is a holiday that is supposed to be about celebrating bounty. The bounty of friends, family, togetherness, and food. It’s about the end of summer and fall, the harvest, and making one last big get together before the coming winter. (There are others who celebrate/mourn it differently, that’s not what this post is about.) It is about giving thanks for what we have before we might lose it to the cold, the dark, and the winter.
While Thanksgiving might be about conspicuous consumption of the food variety, some people choose to celebrate it in other ways. Some give back at churches, food pantries, and soup kitchens to those without a bounty to celebrate. Some get together and play football, roast marshmallows around a bonfire, or prepare for Christmas. Lots of people watch the parade or the dog show after eating too much. While there may be a lot of conspicuous consumption going on, Thanksgiving is patently not about the shopping variety. If you’re shopping on Thanksgiving, you’re doing it wrong.
I’m not talking about realizing you forgot everyone’s favorite cranberry sauce in a can and running out to get it at the local convenience store or even a grocery store open for a few hours. I’m also not talking about going out with friends to the local restaurant to have Thanksgiving out (more on that later), I’m talking about shopping, Black Friday style Shopping. On Thanksgiving.
While you won’t find me sitting here arguing for long road trips to see far flung family, you will see me getting pretty steamed that there are non-necessary stores forcing their employees into coming to work on Thanksgiving to get a jump on Black Friday. Again and again, service industry employees get the short end of the stick. Wanna keep your job? Wanna work through the holidays? Excellent, then you better be here for opening at 6:00am, Kmart workers.
That’s right, Kmart will be open for 41 hours straight all through Thanksgiving and Black Friday. I cannot possibly imagine what one might need from the terrifying hopeless wasteland that is our local Kmart, but it will be open all day and full of workers who would probably rather be doing anything else. Likewise, all of the following retailers will be open for at least some of Thanksgiving:
Kohl’s, Sears, The Gap, Old Navy, Michael’s, Wal-Mart, Banana Republic, Toys ‘R Us, Target, Staples, Best Buy, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Simon Malls, Bon Ton, Big Lots, and, of course, some Apple Stores.
Here in MA we still have some of those lovely old puritanical blue laws that will mitigate some of this. We also don’t have as many Wal-Mart stores as your average Midwestern or Southern town. Still, it makes me more and more of an angry Grinch to know that one of the few days that was almost universally a holiday for everyone in the country (first responders, hospital staff, clergy, etc. notwithstanding) is now becoming a holiday only for those who aren’t forced to work. Worse, in states that don’t force employers to pay time and a half or double time for Sunday and Holiday pay like MA does, people will be trudging in to work on Thanksgiving and, if you work at Wal-Mart, still earning minimum wage. Yay, Thanksgiving.
At least the folks working tables have something more to be thankful for. They might not be earning minimum wage, but they should be working tables full of happy people leaving big fat tips, right? Maybe. It depends on whether or not you’re serving a self righteous faux-christian or not. In MA the servers will probably make out better than in, oh, Kansas.
As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be giving a wide berth to any of the stores listed above. If I can avoid them altogether for the rest of the year, I will. I will shop locally when I can, make gifts when I can, and if I do any shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, it will be Plaid Friday style. I encourage you to do the same.