My daughter is doing a countdown to the return of her favorite radio station’s annual commitment to all Christmas music all the time (through January 1st). For her, the holiday tunes can’t come soon enough, tunes that inspire her to ask for things that she would rather not have to buy with her own money. For most of us, we can wait patiently for the season to arrive. We’ve been through this drill a number of times.
It is an old story every year that Christmas starts earlier and earlier. The Back to School J.C. Penney’s ads are still warm on our TV screens when we fast forward past the traditional “Lexus Sales Event to Remember” commercials with the SUV wrapped in red ribbon. This post is not about those feelings that time is hurling past us with ever increasing speed. This is about something more tangible. This is about work.
If it seems that Christmas is coming earlier every year, that’s because Christmas is coming earlier every year. This year, Walmart, Toys 'R Us, Kmart, and Sears are all opening their doors at 8 pm on Thanksgiving Day. That's two to four hours before they kicked things off last year. Black Friday has morphed into Black Week.
Target felt the holiday pressure and they too have changed their hours to match their competitors. Thankfully, Target employees are fighting the change with online petitions and anonymous statements of discontent to local Patch investigative reporters. That always works, but if it doesn’t, your red smock had better be cleaned and pressed or you’ll get sent home without pay on Thanksgiving.
The slippery slope towards squeezing holiday cheer in favor of profitability had a specific tipping point for me. In the early 1990s when religious holidays were shared by the secular world in order to give working stiffs a break, one Britches Great Outdoors manager saw the future and capitalized on an opportunity. While the world of retail slept one Easter Sunday, he opened his doors just to see what would happen. Bad news. His store did big dollars, and the floodgates were breached for every other Britches store to open the following Easter. Yes, I blame you, Steve King (or maybe it was that go-getter Nick Costino). Either way, we all suffered because of your decision to preempt a holiday for a higher velocity on Warthog shirts sales.
That’s when holidays at home with family died for me. I eventually escaped the retail wheel, but not everyone can be so lucky.
Truth be told, some Target workers are not complaining about the extended shopping hours on Thanksgiving Day. The company pays time and a half for working the holiday and in tight economic times, that’s welcome money for the 47% who usually do not take personal responsibility for themselves according to a former politician recently discredited. When it comes to extra pay for work, some actually do want to work.
But not everyone.
Stores used to be closed on Sundays, a faith based exception to the endless cycle of consumerism. Those days are over.
Some workers want to spend time with family, a sentiment that used to be encouraged by those committed to family values and the value of a nuclear family. Unfortunately, these family values conflict with the urge to buy a 55” flat screen TV for $59 immediately after the Redskins-Cowboys game but before the eggnog starts flowing before bedtime. We have exceptional priorities in this country, and that cannot be debated.
I am not a socialist. I understand that you’ll never get 100% of the workforce off on a holiday. Public servants, utilities, IT help desk, doctors, members of the Dallas Cowboys – they always have to work on Thanksgiving Day. But should there be a line in the sand, a public policy or public gentleman’s agreement that reinforces a commitment to family and thanksgiving? A mandatory pause to collectively reflect, whether in prayer or in silence, is a bipartisan dream. Can the noise of cash registers be minimized for one day instead of constantly expanded at the expense of family time?
We might be better served cancelling all holidays. In a 24-7-365 world, one day is just like the next. They all end with the letter ‘y’ after all, including apparently, Thanksgivingy.
For the record, I’ll be home on Thanksgiving but I will watch the ceremonial first trampling of a shopper from the safety and comfort of my living room.
Thank a lot, Steve (or Nick).