Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving & Retail, Part 1

Back in the 1990s, I remember removing a full-page ad that Nordstrom placed in the newspaper.  I stuck it to my refrigerator with magnets.  It was my way of highlighting Thanksgiving, putting off Christmas until the proper time (the season begins on Christmas, of course), and showing the family my appreciation of at least one retailer who still believed in standing on principle.  You see, the ad promised that the retailer would honor Thanksgiving by holding off on putting any Christmas decorations in the store before Black Friday.  Apparently, they are still keeping to this tradition. 

Back in the 90s, the biggest retailer nuisance was pushing Christmas décor a bit too early.  Nowadays, I find it a greater nuisance that retailers want to eliminate the purpose of Thanksgiving altogether by turning it into the New Black Friday.

I’ve been following articles for the last few years about the insanity of what retailers have been doing on the major holidays.  What follows are the pro-retailer arguments and my responses!

1)  It’s what the customer wants.

I’ve worked retail and I know the customer can have some fairly unreasonable demands.  Examples?  Hmm.  How about when they want to make a return, for cash, on a piece of merchandise they admit they’ve purchased from another store?  How about the customer who gets an item from a thrift store that originally came from your store, and they want cash for a return? 

Sorry, no.  The customer isn’t always right.

There are two local restaurants our family frequents that are closed on Sundays.  Hobby Lobby closes on Sundays.  You know what?  These establishments do not lose my business because of it.  I simply choose one of the other six days to do my business at these places.  Not only that, I respect them for their stance and that does earn my loyalty.

Similarly, so what if a large number of people do not put thought into how their shopping habits impact those who work retail?  No need to cater to their thoughtlessness by opening on a major holiday to scoop up a few bucks.  Dollars they will spend the next day, if you are closed on Thanksgiving.

2)  Some people need to take advantage of the sales during this tough economy.

B and S.  If my children were starving, what kind of a parent would I be “saving” 20% on a flat screen at Best Buy by getting in line on Thanksgiving, rather than waiting until Friday or Saturday and paying full price?

I know thrifty people who chase bargains for the fun of it.  I know people who shop wisely because money is super-tight.  I know people who are frugal because they are saving for the future.  Whatever the reason, they are clever at finding bargains and they do not need to imposition the minimum wage employees who are forced to come in on a national holiday.  A holiday meant to be about being grateful for blessings small and blessings great, not about squeezing as much as one can do in a frenzy of shopping.

3)  No one forces the employees to come in that day.  Whine, whine, they have to work – what about police and nurses?

First of all, yeah . . . you are kinda forced to come in that day.  There isn’t a lot of choice in the matter for minimum wage employees who need to have a job.  Yes, they knew what they were getting into by applying for jobs in the retail sector but there’s not always a lot of choosing to be done in the kind of job one must take to pay the bills.  And even if it were such a noble endeavor to be at Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving, I wonder if the Board of Directors finish their dinner in a hurry in order to meet the masses crushing through the door.  I’ve never seen the likes of it.  The highest ranking employees working retail on a national holiday are typically those who are the lowest on the management totem pole, in my experience.

Second, I cannot believe that I have actually come across discussions in comboxes about nurses and police.  First responders and hospital staff are doing something noble for the good of humanity.  That is why we are grateful to them for the jobs they do.  It’s why families bring cookies to the nursing staff when they have a loved one in ICU over the holidays.  It’s why scouts sing carols at police stations.  It’s why thousands send Christmas cards to the troops abroad.  I’m sure there’s a good deal of “lowest on the totem pole” at work in those sectors, but what they do should be appreciated.  They are our heros.  Despite what the sales-chasers might think, the likelihood is slim that anyone will die from being unable to buy something from Target or Kohl’s on Thanksgiving.

4) Some workers like it/want holiday pay/are atheists/don’t have children.

As a college student, I worked retail with the understanding that I’d be a relief for those who have children at home, grandchildren to visit, etc. Whatever.  While I hope I was polite to the customer, inside my head I was wondering why they didn’t have a life that they needed to be in a store on New Year’s/Fourth of July/Christmas Eve.  (Two decades has tempered the bitterness, but I still find it sad that one would rather run to a store than relax at home.  Or, if it is necessary to go out, to take a walk in the brisk November air.)

I don’t think people really like to work all hours of the day, every day of the week.  How many times have you see single people interviewed in a “workplace happiness” sort of article about how they resent the implication that it’s okay for them to stay late or work weekends since they don’t have kids’ soccer games to get to?  I’ve seen it!  Just as a Dad shouldn’t have to rush out of a holiday meal to get to his (non-essential to survival) job, a single person with siblings or parents 2500 miles away shouldn’t be expected to want to work on the holidays, either.

As for those who don’t celebrate the big holidays . . . what? They never get a day off? My rallying cry, whenever a loved one wants to bop into a store on a Sunday, is “Atheists need a day off, too!” 

This is not just a rant.  I have solutions.  But this post is already very long, so I’ll continue this theme in the next day or so.

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