Why I Don’t Buy Into Black Friday

Thousands of people across our great nation lined up outside of stores, some of them days in advance, in hopes of scoring one of the few doorbuster deals retailers were offering as early as 8PM Thursday. Others got up before dawn Friday hoping to get in on other early bird deals various stores were advertising. And even more folks flocked to crowded malls in hopes of saving some money (without getting trampled, assaulted, or in a fight, hopefully) on whatever electronic or toy is the hottest thing to give this holiday season.

And I think it’s ridiculous.

As stores open earlier and earlier, employees are being forced to work crazier hours. Sometimes, they’re even stuck taking time away from their families, holiday preparations, and traditions so that stores can be open long past standard business hours.  I’m not talking, here, about stores that are normally open 24 hours.  I’m talking about the stores that, on Black Friday, open at 12AM, instead of their standard 9AM.

“But it’s their job.”

When you work somewhere, you have a reasonable expectation of when your work hours are, based on when that company’s business hours are. I work a full time job with a pretty standard 9AM to 6PM schedule.  While there have been times I have volunteered to come in on a Saturday, or have stayed later to make sure a deadline was met, there has never been a time where I’ve been asked to start working at 12AM, or have had to work 16 hour days.  And I’m a salaried employee, which means when I do work overtime, I’m not lucky enough to get time-and-a-half, and I don’t get paid for a 10 hour workday when I work one.

Back to that bold sentence above. Aside from the stores that are open 24 hours, all the other stores that had crazy Black Friday (or Thanksgiving Day) hours that were vastly different from their normal business hours, or even holiday hours.  And while, sure, there might have been some employees who volunteered to be in at 6P on Thanksgiving Day, or 3AM on Black Friday, chances are, the majority of people who worked those hours, didn’t volunteer their time.  No, chances are, they were scheduled to work, and had to show up or face disciplinary action, or even risk losing their job.

And while it may be a Target employee’s job to, well, work at Target, they probably didn’t realize that when they took their job, they were signing up to skip Thanksgiving dinner with their family, or go without sleep after a big meal (and perhaps a home full of guests) to stock a store and deal with hounds of (often rude, sometimes dangerous) bargain hunters.  In fact, a sibling of a Target employee filed a petition at Change.org to ask Target not to take away Thanksgiving.  It got over 4,000 signatures, though it didn’t really make a difference, because Target still opened early on Thanksgiving.  Here’s a still open petition, started by a Target employee, which has over 370,000 supporters.  There are supposedly similar petitions started by employees of both Walmart and Toys R Us, for the same reason.

Some may argue that it’s time for new traditions.

In fact, I know people who have changed their Thanksgiving routines in order to be able to shop starting at midnight, or earlier the past your or two. They have created new family traditions, involving lighter lunches and all-night shopping binges.  I’m sure there are families of retail workers who have made similar changes in their family traditions to allow for the family to be together longer, which is an awesome way to make lemonade out of lemons.

But if we all move Thanksgiving dinner to Thanksgiving lunch, how long will it take for retailers to start opening at lunchtime, and then for them to just be open all day? Probably not very long at all.  And then, Thanksgiving will end up being a holiday that isn’t really a holiday after all, because we’ll all be working… even those of us with desk jobs.  Because if retailers are open all day, what’s going to stop the rest of the business world from being open?  Yea… nothing.

I don’t think that’s what Thanksgiving should become. I think we should keep Thanksgiving a national holiday, and not let it turn into just another day that turns into “back in my day” stories during Christmastime.

I think we should go back to how it used to be.

I know times are changing. And I know that some brick-and-mortar stores are hurting due to online retailers.  But Thanksgiving is one of the oldest American national holidays (it was proclaimed one by Abraham Lincoln in 1893), and one of the few non-religious holidays we all get off to spend time with family.  Why are we letting it slowly dwindle away to something meaningless?

Christmas decorations (and music) come out right after Halloween now. Maybe lots of people don’t decorate for Thanksgiving any more, or maybe retailers are hoping that by making Christmas decorations available sooner, the folks who need to use layaway to purchase things can still have a festive home for the holidays.  But still, Thanksgiving shouldn’t be thrown away just to feed into society’s greed.

What’s more?  You Black Friday shoppers aren’t getting the best deals any more!

This article, posted by a friend of mine on Facebook, was interesting. It looked at 2011 numbers and actually showed that in name cases, the number of products on sale were less on Black Friday than both before and after, and that in terms of actual item prices, some items even had price hikes on Black Friday!  You’re actually better off either shopping before Black Friday, or afterwards (though not right before Christmas).

So let’s take back Thanksgiving!

Next year, when retailers open at 6PM or earlier on Thanksgiving day, let’s not give in. Let’s stay home and enjoy the day off work, and spend it with family and/or friends.  Let’s take a minute out of our busy lives to enjoy who we have with us, while we have them.  Let’s pause to be thankful for what we have, and not spend hours waiting in line to trample each other for something that, in reality, we don’t really even need.

But wait!

I actually like the idea of Black Friday. I don’t think there needs to be no Black Friday.  I just think retailers need to let both us non-retail employees, as well as the hard-working men and women who do work retail, have a Thanksgiving.  Can’t we go back to stores opening an hour earlier and closing an hour later on Black Friday?  Heck, even 4 extra hours (2 hours before open and after close) would be acceptable.  But this business of opening earlier on Thanksgiving and hiking prices up so that the sale price is actually not too much different from what the price was a couple weeks prior?  Silliness!

I also love the idea of Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. I think those are great ways for smaller places to get their names out there.  Plus, it’d be silly for me to be against something that helps my husband, a small business owner with a strong online presence, so much.  But I’ve been trying to support local businesses more and more lately, and that’s the real reason I like Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

What do you think?

Are you a die-hard Black Friday shopper? Do you tent up, wait in line, and elbow your way through crowds to get whatever doorbusters are hot hot hot?  Is there something  I’m missing about all of it?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

Or are you with me? Do you think this Black Friday madness has gone too far, and we all need to take a step back, breathe, and stop buying into shopping crazes like this?  Let me know what you think in the comments.

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