When I was a child, my family had a great tradition. On the morning after Thanksgiving, my mother and sister would get up insanely early and head out to the stores. They would hit up all of the stores and complete their Christmas shopping in one day, and at a significant discount. While they shopped, my father and I would put up the extensive Christmas decorations. That night, after they had wrapped the presents, we would finish up the tree.
When I got out of high school, I joined the retail workforce. I spent years in the field with different companies. I experienced Black Friday from many different angles, including two times at the biggest electronics retailer in the U.S. The experience was incredible and exhausting. I watched a stream of people pour into the store after countless hours standing out in the freezing weather. Most of them showed pure thrill on their faces. Of course, we had some that were obviously miserable and snapped at others in the crowd.
In the last couple of years, I’ve seen something that I couldn’t have imagined at that time. Stores have begun to open on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, I mentioned to my family that this was a ridiculous trend that I hoped wouldn’t last long. Unfortunately, it has only gotten worse. Even stores that stood firm last year have decided to open on Thanksgiving day this year.
While this trend is ridiculous and upsetting, it isn’t the aspect of this phenomenon that has upset me the most. What I’ve seen this year is a parade of people posting statements and memes ridiculing the retail workers who are justifiably upset about the change. What really gets to me about this ridicule is that, in the vast majority of instances, comparisons are made to careers that have always been forced to work on holidays. These include medical professionals such as EMT’s, nurses, and doctors, as well as emergency personnel such as firefighters and police officers.
Have we really lost our values to the extent that we can compare the work of those who save lives with the acquisition of frivolous material goods? Does anyone really buy that argument? They must because I keep seeing memes such as the one to the right on my news feed. If others will not, I will be happy to take the initiative and tell anyone who has bought into this foolishness that there is in no way a comparison between the two. You have to either be ignorant or simply foolish to make this kind of comparison.
Let’s simply start with the fact that people in fields such as medicine and emergency services go into the position with an understanding that they will be called upon to save lives and perform their duties on any day. They are working on holidays, away from their families, to keep people alive, safe, and healthy. The retail workers that you are criticizing are away from their families so that you can purchase that television, cell phone, or computer for $100 less than you could have on the day before. In fact, my wife recounted a story to me today of an RN who came to her store and mentioned to her that she felt for the retail associates who had to work on Thanksgiving and that she also felt that the comparison of people in her profession to retail personnel who are forced to work on the holiday were foolish.
More specifically, these people are working so that the leadership in the company and the shareholders can pocket a few dollars more. Note that the leadership and shareholders will be at home enjoying their Thanksgiving while the line-level workers are making them this money. If these people really believed in what they were doing, they would leave their nice houses and work a retail holiday in the way that the poor people working for them must. They will stay late on the day before Thanksgiving to set up the store. They will get there early on Thanksgiving and work 8 to 12 hours with little time to stop and rest. Then they will get a few hours of sleep and be back very early on Friday morning to reset and start the process over again.
Moving on from the obvious lunacy of the comparison, we have to examine the fact that these people are being forced to work because of pure, simple greed. The greed is of the people in power at the corporations who just have to get those dollars that might be spent at their competition and the greed of the consumers who refuse to wait one more day in fear that they might spend a few dollars more. Your greed is forcing these people to leave their families on this holiday. Your greed ruining one of the few holidays that we can truly claim is a great tradition in our nation. I hope you’re proud of this greed. It reminds me of a scene from the classic A Christmas Carol. While the story is about greed at Christmas, I believe that the greed of a man refusing to help those in need and the greed that is exhibited when we force others to suffer so that we can acquire a few more material goods at a good price are two sides of the same coin. Those of you who contribute to this disgusting display are no better than Ebenezer Scrooge…
Some people will inevitably mention that there are other professions that are forced to work on Thanksgiving, and have been for years. There are many and they include convenience store (gas station) clerks, hotel workers, and those who work in movie theaters. I respond by saying that these people enter into these positions with the expectation that they will work these holidays. I worked for a movie theater for a period of time when I was younger. I also worked for Blockbuster for years. When I took these positions, it was well known that we would be working on these holidays. It was not a job that I took and then was forced to work days that I didn’t expect. Retail has been traditionally closed on Thanksgiving. These people are being told that they have to work on a holiday that they have counted on spending with their families for years.
If you buy into the comparison that has been circulating the social media circuit, you are either ignorant of how unreasonable these comparisons are or you are really that greedy and not intelligent enough to understand the difference between money and people’s lives.
In case you missed my point, if you shop on Thanksgiving or are a business leader who has made the decision to open on Thanksgiving and force your retail employees to work, you are the problem with our society. You are why people in other countries hate our culture and use us as a punchline. You are the downfall of our ethics and values. You are greedy and selfish and should lay awake at night suffering from the agony that befalls the person who exploits others for a few pennies.
To those retail workers being forced to spend the holiday away from their families, we support you. To those who will join me in supporting these people and refusing to shop at those retailers…thank you. I encourage you to join the Facebook page Boycott Black Thursday. You will find lists of companies to boycott this season as well as those who value their employees and are refusing to submit to this greedy insanity. To those companies…we thank you as well. Continue to do the right thing and you will have a loyal and ever-growing customer base.