There has been a lot of chatter the past few weeks in the media and on the Grand Overseer about stores being open on Thanksgiving Day. I’m not talking about stores you’d think would be open, like your local grocery store — which I’m sure thousands of Americans desperately needed at about 11:00am yesterday. I’m talking about retail stores who open early to attract early shoppers looking for pre-Black Friday* discounts. The chatter has been about whether or not opening early is fair to those retail employees who have to report to work Thanksgiving Day.
I’m chiming in here to present the two sides** of this controversy, and to encourage you to think about both sides before deciding what you think. We’ve written about controversy in this way before. Granted, I’m a little late to the party on this since Thanksgiving was yesterday, but it is still fresh on everyone’s mind (I think).
BTW, we hope you have a lovely and safe holiday. Jax and TheScott and his parents graciously hosted me to an amazing meal and even better company. Thank you Family Jax for including me in your celebration!
Side 1: Hell No, We Won’t Go!
Retailers and shoppers on this side of the issue argue opening on Thanksgiving is slap in the face of tradition. Thanksgiving is a widely celebrated secular holiday recognized by most of corporate America, who gives their employees time off to celebrate with loved ones, be they family and/or friends. Those who open on Thanksgiving are forcing their employees to work on a day reserved for shared observation. Many shoppers are so opposed to “Grey Thursday” they are boycotting retailers who open on Thanksgiving. There is more to this argument, like how retail employees are already part of an industry that underpays and undervalues them. The idea being making them work on Thanksgiving is adding insult to injury.
Side 2: Live And Let Live
Retailers and shoppers on this side of the issue argue retailers are not breaking any laws*** and may well be providing their employees with an opportunity for extra income. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require paid time off for holidays or vacation; many (if not most) retail workers are classified as hourly and don’t get paid unless they work. Proponents of this viewpoint want us to let the market decide. Since retailers will be open on Thanksgiving is a relatively new trend — let’s see what happens.§ There is more to this argument, like how Black Friday creep might contribute to our economy in the wake of a government shutdown, which siphoned billions of dollars from the market in unpaid labor. The idea being we can’t afford to lose an opportunity to build consumer confidence.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m still on the fence about this.
As a consumer — I have no intention of brick and mortar shopping on Thanksgiving Day. However, I did go to Central Market on my way to The Castle for dinner. And I did browse the Internet for stuff I need for my house (though I didn’t buy anything). Retail shopping would compromise the day for me, and I choose not to do it. But my traditions are not the same as yours, and I don’t presume to judge those who choose to shop on Thanksgiving.
At the end of the day, there will be retail employees forced to work who don’t want to, and retail employees who want to work, but don’t have to opportunity to. For me, making the decision to oppose or not-oppose Grey Thursday is sort of like choosing between a douchebag and a turd sandwich (all hail South Park). What about you, Realm? What are your thoughts and how did you come to your opinion?
* As is often the case, I’m learning as I’m writing today. I always thought Black Friday was a tongue-in-cheek name for this shopping day because of the aberrant behavior it caused in people. I thought it was Black Friday akin to how “black” is used in Black Hole, referencing the unknown, scary, and most likely dangerous. It turns out my interpretation is closer to the origins of this title. The title was coined by the Philadelphia police department who used it to describe the traffic and crowd chaos that accompanied the Army-Navy football game, which was traditionally the day after Thanksgiving. The retail industry co-opted the term for their own use sometime in the 1980’s to reference being “in the black” (which is accounting-speak for making a profit).
** If there are more than two sides, I don’t know of them.
*** There are three states that ban retailers from opening on holidays, Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts.
§ Since today is Black Friday, we sort of know how sales went yesterday. Apparently there were lots of shoppers, but nothing on the scale of Black Friday proper. I haven’t seen any economic pontificates argue whether Grey Thursday is a good financial trend or not.