Disclaimer: Okay, I’m Jewish. That said, I am also an American and a New Yorker. Also, my grandma worked for Macy’s for most of her adult life, as a salesperson. End Disclaimer
When I was growing up (in the 1950s and 1960s), the Christmas season began the moment that Santa and his sleigh appeared onscreen at the end of the New York Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and not one second sooner. It was the way things were in my entire neighborhood (Richmond Hill, Queens, NY), and we were fine with it. The day after Thanksgiving was, of course, Black Friday (originally named because this was the biggest shopping day of the year; the day that could flip a store into the black, and not for the behavior of the shoppers). Heck, the whole weekend was when most people did their Christmas/Chanukah/whatever (there was no Kwaanza then, and most folks in my neighborhood didn’t celebrate Yule) shopping.
Now, as online retailers started taking away some share of the brick and mortar retailers’ profits (not to mention competition among the brick and mortar retailers themselves), the brick and mortar retailers started pushing back. First came early bird specials, which could start at any time after, say, 4 am. These were followed by Midnight specials: stores opening at the stroke of Midnight between Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.
Now, some of the larger brick and mortar retailers are pushing to have stores open on Thanksgiving Night or Day, in a blatant attempt to create bigger sales. In order to do so, they are spending vast sums to stock up, hire security, and entice employees to work on Thanksgiving (in some cases coercing employees to work on that day). Now, I know that for some folks, the economy being what it is, a workday at time and a half is a wonderful thing, and I have no bone to pick with them. I wish them well, and I am certain they are thankful for the chance to add to their budget.
However, I do have an issue with the retailers, particularly the big box retailers. Thanksgiving is the one uniquely American holiday in that it can be celebrated by people of any background or religion, and in that, rather than as a holiday in which people are pushed to give gifts, it is about reflecting on all that we do have — food, a roof over our heads, friends, intelligence, whatever — the things that make our lives good.
Erica, of the blog Northwest Edible Life, did an excellent post on the subject, and I am willing to spread her conclusion:
“This, therefore, is my conclusion and my message: all y’all Grey Thursday and Black Friday deal-hunters need to just calm the hell down for a second (or, ideally, twelve hours). Have some turkey, play a board game, watch a football game. Call your friends, hug your family, put on some music. Go around your house and count how many TVs you already have. Hint: if (number of TVs x 200)>(your credit score) do not buy any more TVs!
Go shopping on Friday. Have a blast – get up early, buy a Mrs. Field’s cookie and make a day out of it. Go with friends, keep the economy moving, hunt for parking, be part of the Black Friday tradition. If everyone did this, within two years stores would take Thursday sales off the table, hundreds of thousands of employees would not be pressured to work Thanksgiving, and the discounts would be just as good on Friday.
I cannot emphasize this enough: there is no reason - at all - why a steep discount has to be offered on Thursday instead of Friday. The stores would all adapt if we refused to offer up Thanksgiving to commercialism.”
Of course, like Erica, I feel I am preaching to the choir here. Most of the people I know would sooner eat soap than go near a mall on Black Friday.
However, like Erica, I want to spread the word that if enough people avoid taking part in this crazy rush to acquire things, and the retailers lose enough money, they will be forced by their own bottom lines to not repeat the folly.
Therefore, I am taking a stand. And I am putting that stand out in the world, so that others so inclined might also take one. I will not, other than maybe a last-minute run to the local bodega for more milk, go near a store on Thanksgiving. I will dine with my relatives, relax with them, enjoy their company, and then go home, where I will either read, chat with online friends, or knit until bedtime.
I note that the roomie just placed a full-page ad from one of my favorite local chain appliance/electronics stores, P.C. Richards, into my hand. They are not only not going to open on Thanksgiving Day or Night, but are blasting retailers who do so.
Since the text of the ad is not clear, here is the text:
Our 2,968 Employees Wish You a Very Healthy, Happy Thanksgiving… A Day for the Celebration of Families, Friends, and Loved Ones.
It is our opinion that retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving Day or Night show no respect to their employees and families, and are in total disrespect of family values in the United States of America.
Honor Thanksgiving Day… A True American Holiday!
And on this day… our thoughts and prayers are with our employees, customers, friends and neighbors who have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
We appreciate those who provide us essential services today.
A special thank to all emergency response teams, working tirelessly in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and to the service men and women who protect our freedom each and every day!
P.C. RICHARD & SON
Family Owned & Operated for 103 Year…Est. 1909
And because of that, I think you folks can predict what retailer will continue to get my share of patronage when I want to purchase an appliance or small electronics item.
So, I am, as I said, taking a stand. And I ask if you will, too. Will you avoid the attempt to turn Thanksgiving Day into an extension of Black Friday? Will you avoid becoming part of the madding crowd at the malls?
Note: I do welcome dissenting opinions, so long as they are voiced civilly. If they are not, I will borrow Teresa Neilsen-Hayden’s disemvowelling tools, and John Scalzi’s Mallet of Gentle Correction, and use them liberally.