Devoted readers of this blog (of which there probably are no more than two) and my friends (who are no more than two) may recall that last Thanksgiving I aired my dirty laundry in public. In a post entitled My Dirty Little Secret, I revealed that I like to shop on Black Friday. Which probably explains why I will never win any prize for sartorial splendor; too many solo purchases without any input from my well-dressed wife and fashionista daughters.
But the real point of last year’s blog post was not my forays on Black Friday; rather, it was to complain about how retailers were ruining the one non-sectarian family holiday by opening their stores ever earlier, even on Thanksgiving eve.
Things only got worse this year. In search of the almighty dollar, and alarmed about a possible fall off in revenues since this year there are fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, retailers responded by opening even earlier than ever. Toys R Us led the way, opening at 5PM. Not to be outdone, Best Buy, the struggling electronics retailer, and Walmart (which is only the biggest and most profitable chain in the country) opened next at 6PM. Old Navy waited until 7. A host of large stores opened at 8PM, including Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s, JC Penney, and Sears.
Of course, when the stores open this early, workers must get there even earlier. My own nephew, who works at Sears, was asked to report at 5PM, three hours before the retail giant opened. When he complained that his sister would not get home from work until 5 (she works at a Pet Smart, which apparently operates a pet hotel over the holidays) and that there would be no time for a family dinner, he won a reprieve of sorts; he was allowed to report at 6:30PM, or just enough time to wolf down the turkey and pumpkin pie in an hour before leaving for work. Of course, after working til 1AM, he was expected to be back the next morning at 7AM.
But perhaps the biggest turkey in this consumer extravaganza was Pizza Hut. (Who the hell goes to Pizza Hut on Thanksgiving? Shoppers who are carbo loading in preparation for their buying marathon?) When a manager in Indiana refused to open on Thanksgiving, Pizza Hut fired him and demanded that he write a letter of resignation (probably so it would not have to pay unemployment benefits).
So what did Tony Rohr do? He refused to resign and instead wrote a letter decrying the company’s demand that the restaurant open on Thanksgiving. ”I accept that the refusal to comply with this greedy, immoral request means the end of my tenure with this company,” he says he wrote. ”I hope you realize that it is the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible.” The ten-year employee added, ‘Why can’t we be the company that stands up and says we care about your employees and you can have the day off?’” Rohr told CNN affiliate WSBT Wednesday, “Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that they’re closed in the whole year. And they’re the only two days that those people are guaranteed to have off to spend with their families.”
For that letter, Tony Rohr is my hero. And guess what? Corporate America backed down. After a public outcry, Pizza Hut urged its franchisee to reinstate Mr. Rohr.
So, tempting though it might have been, I did not go shopping (or eat at Pizza Hut) on Thanksgiving Day (or shall we call it Thankless Thursday for those employees like my nephew who had to work). I stayed home with my family, overindulged in turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and apple pie, watched some football, and then even had enough room to think about a midnight sandwich (luckily I already had left my sister-in-law’s).
The next day, I almost worked it all off by going shopping on Black Friday. When I got home, the scale said I had (only) gained 3 pounds. But next year, when the stores remain open all day, I’m still not shopping on Thankless Thursday. Let’s keep the thanks in Thanksgiving and just once give America’s workers a whole day off—with pay.
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