I saw a news story today about the number of stores and malls that will remain open on Thanksgiving to cater to shoppers. Many of them are no longer waiting until the butt-crack of dawn on Friday morning, or even the dark of midnight on Thursday. Nope, now you can start shopping as early as 6pm on Thursday at many malls, outlets, and retailers near you.
The comments on the article basically cry out in agony for those poor retail workers ripped from the bosom of their family to stand behind a register and ring up the unwashed masses buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have. I have been there, done that, and worn the corporate-issued apron. It sucked, sure, but it was a sacrifice I had to make for a paycheck I needed. I could have quit. But then I wouldn’t have had a job or a paycheck. No one who gets into retail does so blindly. If you don’t realize that it may mean working on a holiday, then shame on you.
I’ve seen other articles applauding certain retail stores for refusing to open on Thanksgiving. Those stores publicly declared that they would remain closed so that their employees could enjoy the day with family. Well isn’t that nice. It is a noble statement, but if you follow the money you will see that the stores that are staying closed are doing so because they don’t benefit from the bump of midnight shopping. They may be unwilling or unable to offer a discount on their items, or their overhead costs are higher than their sales, or their target demographic prefers other incentives to entice them into the store. Business is business. Target is open because Wal-Mart is open because Best Buy is open.
Along those lines, the Internet is ALWAYS open. This is a brave new world and Amazon is always ready for business. Do you think those retailers who are closed on Thanksgiving aren’t open online? Please. Free Shipping! Online Only Deals! Bonus Gift Cards! Triple Reward Points! You can shop all day long on Thanksgiving without ever leaving the comfort of your living room.
And let’s follow that thread a little further down the line. What are millions upon millions of Americans doing on Thanksgiving (besides shopping)? They are watching football. Do you think the concession stand guy wants to be away from his family? Are the security staff, the maintenance crew, the cameramen, or the parking lot attendants thrilled to be standing out in the cold watching the pigskin fly? If you work for the Detroit Lions or the Dallas Cowboys (or in their stadiums), then you know you are working. If you work for any number of sports-related TV shows, then you are working. Sure, the above the line guys are well-compensated for missing the holiday and probably have an awesome spread set out in crafts services, but the make-up team who keeps Jimmy Johnson’s hair so poofy? Do you think anyone asked them if they want to work? I don’t. The quarterback is making his millions, but there are literally dozens of people on that field who aren’t. Yet we don’t weep over them being kept from family dinners because we are too busy enjoying the fruits of their labors.
Lots of people have to work on Thanksgiving. Those in the armed services usually get commercials reminding us of their sacrifice and rightly so. But no one laments the fate of the doctors, nurses, cops, pilots, and countless other professionals that are also stuck working on Thanksgiving. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the Thanksgiving Day parades that take place all over our country, even though they surely require people to be away from family on the holiday. Al Roker needs to eat turkey too, you know. However, somewhere in our collective heads, there is a distinction between the people who work due to honor versus those who work for money. Well you know what? There is no distinction. It sucks for everyone, equally. You can do your job with a smile or with a sulk, you can hold a gun with bullets or one loaded with SKU numbers, but we the people shouldn’t feel sorry for you. I will empathize and I will sympathize, but I will not patronize.
So with all of this in mind, I think it is ridiculous to call for a boycott. You don’t want to shop, stay home. But you should also stay off the Internet and if you are a Nielson family, turn off your television. Don’t buy gas, or milk, or a newspaper from the corner store. Don’t call 911. Don’t go to the hospital or the airport. But try to remember when you do finally hit the stores to actually smile at the cashier, thank the clerk who helped you find something, and keep your patience when the lines get too long and the stores get too hot. Make eye contact with those behind the counter. Smile. When you say thank you, mean it. Those same retail workers who you wept about on Thursday are the same ones behind the register on Friday, or Tuesday, and every other day of the week.