It’s that time of year again, a time for family, being together, being thankful for what you have, and eating like it’s your last meal. Well, that’s what it’s supposed to be anyway, unless a member of your family happens to work in retail, then it’s a time for stress, no sleep, 16 hour work-days, and of course Black Friday, or I suppose we should start calling it Black Thursday.
Stores are opening earlier than ever this year, with nearly all of them opening on Thanksgiving day, giving employees absolutely no time with their families. Employees are expected to work until 3 or 4 in the morning the day before the holiday to setup for the spectacle, then are expected to arrive as early as 3 or 4 pm on Thanksgiving day to prep for the sales. This leaves 12 hours, with a 10 hour shift before and a 16 to 18 hour shift after. I suppose companies see this 12 hours as plenty of time off for the holiday, since all employees are in fact robots and do not need to sleep.
I admit I do have a biased opinion here since my wife is one of those employees who works retail, who I have seen less and less each year for holidays as these opening times become more and more obscene. Biased or not, I cannot under any circumstances see how it is more important for people to be able to shop on Thanksgiving day than it is to allow these employees to be home with their families. I cannot justify it, nor can I accept that it is a reasonable thing to do, I just can’t.
Being an adult who has watched this deterioration of values over the last several years I have a bit of understanding in that these companies all feel they “have to” open this early to be competitive. I can understand that, but the ones who can’t, the ones who suffer the most, the ones who can’t understand why mommy isn’t there, are the children. How do you explain to a child that mommy can’t be home because some executive wants an extra quarter of a percentage point on his stock this year?
I have drafted up a letter that I will be sending off to the corporate offices this year asking this very question, asking them to explain to my son what I can’t find the words for.
To whom it may concern,
I was very saddened by your recent press announcement for your 2013 Thanksgiving day hours, as this means yet another holiday where my wife will not be home with our family. I understand that you feel you “need” to be open during the holiday because as you put it “That’s what customers want”, but you do so at a great cost. Your stores, along with so many others are slowly chipping away at the values for sacred time left in our society. The toll you are taking on families is devastating, and takes what should be a happy time of celebration and togetherness and twists it into a time of dread and sadness. Your employees are left to bear this burden, along with their families. Some of us can bear the weight better than others, but our children, they don’t understand.
I would like you to explain to my son why his mother can’t be home with us for the holiday. Explain to him why it is so important for the store to be open on Thanksgiving when we teach him that Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, and to spend together with family. Tell me how to explain that a slightly larger market share for the company is worth him not seeing his mother. Tell me what to say when he asks “Why?”. Help me explain to him that all the mommies and daddies need to work so a few people can have a little more money, and when he offers up his piggy bank to those people and asks “Can mommy stay home now?”, what do I say then?
I don’t expect anyone to reply to this, or even read it all the way through, but if by some chance someone does, please think about what you’re doing. Think about the damage you are causing to families in the name of a little extra profit. Is it worth it? Is it really?
Concerned for our children.
I will be mailing, or emailing, this letter to every address I can get a hold of in the hopes that someone, somewhere will read it, and it will sink in with them. Please feel free to copy, modify, and send as well.
We created this beast by supporting these stores through the years, lining up outside the buildings year after year, even as they push these times earlier and earlier. We did this. We encouraged and allowed this to happen. We have to fight to undo it. I would love to tell everyone to completely boycott all of the stores that are open on Thanksgiving day to send a message, but I know that isn’t realistic. I would like to ask everyone though to take a good hard look at these stores and ask yourself, “Is it really worth saving $20 to destroy this holiday?”. If at all possible, please do not shop on Thanksgiving. I’m not saying don’t shop the stores that are open on Thanksgiving, just wait, don’t go until after midnight, spend the time with your family, help send a message, please.
I have one last favor to ask, if you do go out, on either day, please be kind to the employees at these stores. Remember, they had to give up their holiday, their family time so you can shop. They didn’t choose to be open this early, their corporate offices chose that. It is not the individual stores fault, the local store didn’t make the decision, it was made by someone who never steps foot outside of a corporate office, someone who makes more in a year than I will make in a lifetime, someone who most certainly will not be working on Thanksgiving day. The employees at your local stores are gaining nothing by being open so early, they don’t profit from it. Many of those employees are heartbroken by being there instead of with their family, so please, be nice to them. Thank you.