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Down With Thanksgiving Shopping! Maybe.

Is the retail encroachment into Thanksgiving day worth fighting?

I’ve been known to be a party pooper, a real Debbie downer (sorry Debbie) when it comes to certain kinds of indulgences. Keep this in mind if you keep reading.

Black Friday. Fine. After a day of gastronomic excess, we launch into a season of consumer spending that many of us will regret well into 2013. But a Black Friday that begins on Thanksgiving Thursday is just too much, or is it? 

The argument was succinctly made by P.C. Richard & Son (on Facebook, of course) that retailers who chose to open their doors on Thanksgiving “show no respect to their employees and families, and are in total disrespect of family values in America.” 

I’m inclined to agree, though the invocation of “family values” is questionable now that the phrase has been politicized into ruin. 

In an article about Thanksgiving retail "blue laws" in New England, The New York Times reported that a nationwide protest is developing against the practice, with workers at some stores threatening to strike and online protests drawing “hundreds of thousands of signatures.” Retailers counter that many workers volunteered for the shift because they need the extra holiday pay. 

I get it. When I moved back to New Jersey from California in the fall of 2008—you remember fall 2008: economic collapse; historic election; mortgage defaults so widespread they'll make you shrug off the impending “fiscal cliff"—anyway, publishers across the nation were slashing their workforces at the precise moment when I badly needed to work. Nobody in my field was hiring, so I drew on a secondary skill set and took a job as a banquet server at a restaurant that mandated holiday shifts. 

After six-and-a-half years of celebrating most Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters on the other side of the country, this didn’t make my relatives or me happy. I needed the money though so, like most of you, I did what I had to do. And, as soon as I found another job, I quit. 

About.com reported that “a record number” of major retailers (200+) were open on Thanksgiving this year. Many of them at least gave employees time to feast with their loved ones by staying closed until evening (K-Mart, Sears, Toys ‘R’ Us, Target), but plenty welcomed shoppers early Thanksgiving morning (Big Lots, Family Dollar, Old Navy, The Gap). 

As the curmudgeon in me was lamenting this “disrespect,” my inner skeptic was arguing, “What about movie theaters, convenience stores, and restaurants? Should those businesses be closed too? You needed ice and bought it. Is the great Thanksgiving tradition of escaping to the cineplex really more virtuous than escaping to Walmart?” 

I’d be a hypocrite to say it is. 

Still, I lament the consumer encroachment into one of our few remaining national sabbaths and I’m more inclined to shop at Macy’s, Best Buy, P.C. Richards, and Kohl’s next month because they gave their employees Thanksgiving day off—well, except for Macy’s. Their workers were hosting a little parade in Manhattan and extravagantly advertising for you and me to indulge, indulge, indulge, because Christmas is almost here! 

Self-righteousness is a circular road, you see. Some roads, fortunately, are straight and true.

With Thanksgiving pies, wine, and spinach dip loaded into our car, my husband and I took a detour east on Mantoloking Road yesterday so that I could visually record the storm debris sitting on people’s curbs before it gets carted away. I was surprised to find that the checkpoint blocking passage to Mantoloking had moved east all the way to the western base of the bridge. 

We unexpectedly caught our first real glimpse of what Hurricane Sandy did when it breached the barrier island at Herbert Street. It was a stunning sight.

Two police cars blocked passage into Mantoloking and three National Guardsmen sat outside a tent at the base of the bridge with a fire burning to keep them warm. 

I yelled out to them from across the road, asking if they would get a good Thanksgiving meal. They said they would and seemed glad for the momentary diversion. I thanked them for their service to our community. They thanked me too, for my support. 

We don’t debate whether or not public servants will work holidays. They, and we, understand that crime, illness, accidents, and natural disasters have no regard for human traditions. We appreciate the fact that men and women like them protect us and our property from negative forces that would encroach upon us and that which we cherish.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in this. Perhaps some borders really are worth protecting.

Or, is it too great a leap to make from protecting a breached barrier island to a keeping borders around our shared national sabbath?

What do you think?

Kathy Murphy Kadlac November 24, 2012 at 03:40 PM
NO to shopping on Thanksgiving Day. Black Friday is the day retailers chose to have their "mega" sales..Keep it that way. we have already lost such special times. Keep Thanksgiving Day to families to assemble and enjoy each others company and to Thank God for all the good the past year and pray for those who lost so much. Ok..you don't pray fine BUT you are together with family so ENJOY it. As it is, Christmas is not "allowed" to be said it must be Happy Holidays. Where is freedom of speech or belief? Only certain "holiday" displays are allowed on public land..Ok, if you do not recognize our Thanksgiving or Christmas go along on your own way and don't participate. Let us, who do believe, celebrate the way we have for a 100 years or more! Only wish the officials would not be so peabrained and allow traditions started by our forefathers. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to all. We DO have a right, also, to celebrate Jesus' birth (Christmas Day), and Hannukah. Kathy Kadlac
McBeth607 November 24, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Some people don't have family close by and welcome the idea of working on a holiday for the money & so perhaps another employee won't have to.
i don't get it?? November 24, 2012 at 06:39 PM
With the lack of human contact we are experiencing these days, two words come to mind...NOT NECESSARY. Why does the general population need another excuse to not spend time interacting the old fashioned way...FAMILY DINNERS, they are a thing of the past for most, so when the opportunity arises 2-3 times a year to sit and have face to face conversations and enjoy the real meaning of holiday family gatherings, we should take advantage of that time.
Laura Haley November 24, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Paramus has the right idea...stores closed Sundays and holidays. If you can't buy it before sunup on those days, you don't need it.
ed crowley November 24, 2012 at 10:27 PM
K-Mart has been open on Thanksgiving for a few years. Where was the outrage then?
Carl Wilton November 25, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Unless there are some laws to save the retailers from themselves, their obsession with competition will lure them into abusing their employees even more. There needs to be legislation to create a competition-free zone on holidays like Thanksgiving. That way, everyone can just go home and be with family and friends - which is where they should be on such a day, and where most people deeply want to be. Sure there will always be some who have to work on holidays in essential services like health care and law enforcement. But lets keep the numbers of those who have to work on those days as small as we can.
Cindy Elliott Romanow November 25, 2012 at 12:35 PM
I think the person who stated "NOT NECESSSARY" basically hit the nail on the head. I am sure there have been other stores /other years that did the same thing. This year may seem more offensive in the aftermath of Sandy, which is still very fresh in our minds. I have always been conflicted about the commercialism of our holidays vs what their true meaning is supposed to be, and this year I think it has been brought home to so many what we truly value, and great buys at stores are not it. Alternatives for those who don't have family close could include volunteering or going to friends house. The American Tradition of merging holidays with commercialism is certainly not new, but by presenting the opportunity to have both occuring simultaneously is effectively obliterating the very reason we have the holiday...
SB Girl November 25, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I keep it simple...if you open on Thansgiving...you are closed in my mind on all the other days of the year!
Kathy Murphy Kadlac November 25, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Hi, I totally agree with you. Why cant they open stores later in the day say around 6ish? That may satisfy all.
Bill Storm, November 25, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I nthink this "Black Friday Shopping" is getting carried away. The next thing you know black friday will be the day after halloween. Come on folks it's to the point where the dollar and material things are put before celebrating with family & friends. What other country does this? We have lost all respect to spend a day with family & friends. Our values are DOWNTHE TUBE.
Grace Gabriele November 25, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Enough is Enough! I think all employees deserve to enjoy a holiday and the sales can wait until the next day. The media needs to calm it down as well as they keep it in everyone's face that you need to shop on Thanksgiving to catch a sale. Thanksgiving is our lost holiday because marketing for Christmas begins at Halloween. We are teaching our youth that time spent with family is not necessary when it is. Blue laws need to return statewide!
Judy November 25, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Someone stated that some employees wanted to work for the extra money. With most retailers there was not an option. If they were open, you worked and gave up your family. What, next are the stores going to be open on Christmas day for the big clearance sales? Especially after what NJ/NY has just gone through, we need to spend family time. There is plenty of time to shop between now and Christmas.
Lorraine November 25, 2012 at 07:49 PM
The start of Black Friday is at Midnite, retailers should not open till then!! It should be the law!!!
Fred Grygiel November 26, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Too many "Black Friday's": Houses/mortgages we can't afford; Cars/loans we can't afford; college education/loans we can't afford; and credit card balances we really can't afford. So why do we get so deep in debt? We are told it's our "duty" to make sure companies make a profit keep the economy growing! Happy Holidays! aka Shop till you drop! Drink & Shop Responsibly! Right!
lifelonginbrick November 26, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I will never shop on Thanksgiving and think it's shameful to not allow employees a single day to enjoy the holiday with their families. There is just no good reason for this latest moronic gimmick from retailers. Many employees are being told that the extra hours are their new 'bonus'. Wow. Thanksgiving is one of the only pure holidays left. It requires that you just get together with your friends and family for a meal - no pointless spending and going broke on cr@p that people just don't need - just turkey. Can't we as a society put aside ONE day where crass commerence doesn't ruin such a simple holiday?
lifelonginbrick November 26, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Yeah....except what if all employees would rather have one lousy day off with their families? Trust me the grunts in retail are not making that much money even at time and a half to be worthwhile. Also with regard to malls. If the mall management is keeping the mall open then ALL of the stores MUST BE OPEN. They have no choice to 'opt' out of the madness. We used to own a shoe repair in the mall and had to stay open for the crazy holiday hours even though we saw no real business during the holidays. The mall debated being open one year during Thanksgiving but backed down due to employee outrage - we were going to pelt people who showed up to shop with Turkey Giblets....
anonymous March 26, 2013 at 12:48 AM
The only thing black friday does is show you how much you are getting ripped off every other day of the year.

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