This fight needs to be fought NOW

I've hesitated about posting here concerning my annual Quixotic quest to see Thanksgiving given respect. Most of you have heard it before. You know my feelings. And it hasn't really been news, so I've fought the temptation to annoy you.

Now, it has become news.

Merchants Say Massachusetts Blue Laws Are Outdated

In my humble opinion, this is the year either Thanksgiving is saved as the holiday we know it or it becomes just another shopping day.

Across the country, more and more retail chains are announcing openings on Thanksgiving rather than a wait until Black Friday. Employees at those stores are being made to give up their holiday in order to work.

Do we want that to happen? More important, do we want that to happen HERE?

I won't hector you here. If you do want some action suggestions, some are at my blog.

Thanks for listening. I'm sure you'll let me know if you think I'm overreacting. And I promise this will be my last posting here on the subject.

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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    Nothing in the city had better open until 7 or 8 AM...

    Think of all the sleeping babes and lasses! If the neighborhood bar/restaurant can't stay open late or 24 hours, then there better not be any retailers who will be allowed to be open at 2 AM for "door busting savings" on Black Friday! If they don't like it and the shopping-crazed masses don't like it, then they better get on board with pushing against all of the commercial businesses that wish they could be open at that hour.

    May I philosophize for a moment?

    I'm drinking my coffee as I write so these might not be the most coherent group of words I've ever written.

    1) On a good day my family and I have a strained relationship. Even though they live a half hour away, I never see them. Thanksgiving is pretty much the one day a year when I do. Your Mom and Dad miss you so get a pecan pie from Community Servings, bring it to their house and spend some time with them.

    2) I get it - you want a mini iPad to give to your brother-in-law for Christmas and there's an extra 20% off if you buy it before midnight on Thanksgiving. Somehow we have degenerated into getting to Best Buy at 9pm on Thanksgiving, being part of a crushing crowd to get in the door and then fighting with other people to get a USB cable. It's like a pack of hyenas taking down a gazelle on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. (I'm not picking on Best Buy, I'm just using them as an example)

    3) I used to work in retail and Black Friday bitches are the worst customers in the world. They're pains in the ass and nothing's ever right. They whine, they pout and they always want to talk to the manager. It's not bad enough that the staff has to be there on a holiday, they have to endure people who I strongly suspect are secretly happy when they're haranguing some poor kid trying to make a few bucks for college.

    One last thought - the Saturday after Thanksgiving is Small Business Day. Are shops and businesses in your neighborhood having events? It's worth looking into.

    An even worst customer:

    The last minute, irresponsible parent running around the store at close on Christmas Eve. I’d feel bad, but you really did have a year of planning and shopping to get them something thoughtful, instead of throwing crap in a cart last possible second.

    Also worked retail, and one time a guy was running around the store and had to be escorted out by a police officer and store security, while screaming “Come on, it’s Christmas eve”. No shit buddy, we want to get home to our families too.

    I mean I understand why

    I mean I understand why stores are really pushing it. Christmas sales account for at least 30% of all sales a store makes during the year. So anything they can push earlier to make a few extra bucks, is good for the business. This is why you'll see Christmas decor at Target right after Labor day.

    BUT that doesn't excuse forcing employees to work on a holiday. I've said this elsewhere and I'll say it again. I'm actually GLAD for the blue laws, they make perfect sense. it just forces business to close and give their employees a day off.

    What companies don't understand is that they are still going to sell the item(s) if its Thanksgiving Day or the day after. People will still line up very early friday morning to save money, I just don't understand why companies can't comprehend that.

    In the past 20 or so years we've just become so commercial around Christmas, we've lost its meaning along with Thanksgiving. As I've said before, nothing says 'giving thanks' than pushing your way into a store to save 20 bucks off an ipod and trampling down everything it their path to do it.

    It really is sickening and gives us a good taste on what society is all about these days...

    PS - And I agree, Small Business Saturday is where it's at Thanksgiving Weekend. Let's not all blow our money at big stores and shop locally. Many small businesses appreciate the customers and sales, just as much as the big stores, and you're liable to get better service and better merchandise. Plus it keeps the money local (local biz hires local people who spend their money locally...)

    zero sum game

    What companies don't understand is that they are still going to sell the item(s) if its Thanksgiving Day or the day after. People will still line up very early friday morning to save money, I just don't understand why companies can't comprehend that.

    True, it’s a zero sum game. It’ll work just fine if your stores and only a few others do it. As it becomes an option to all, any marginal benefit is now lost. But that’s the view in 21st century America. It’s not about long term growth, it’s about squeezing that much more out of the lemon this quarter for shareholders, and your compensation package.

    In that frame, it makes perfect sense.

    I wholeheartedly agree and

    you are not over reacting.

    I walked by a Dunkin Donuts today and noticed a sign in the window. The sign said that the store will be open until 3:00p on Thanksgiving Day. Come on, is that really necessary? Can't we get by without a Dunkin coffee for one day during the year?

    Thanks for posting!

    I'll be

    Sitting at home with a IPA, Turkey leftovers, and playing videogames and watching movies with the family. Might even put up the Xmas tree.

    So don’t worry your Libertarian self Sully! You couldn't pay me to go near a store on Black Friday, let alone Turkey Day Night.

    (I do agree thought. It’s a sign of the vapid consumerism that has taken over Capitalism, and also the declining middle class that feels the need to claw at everything just to stay ahead. When you build a flimsy penny pinching, lowest cost economy, well, these are the symptoms)

    Agreed

    Thanks for this post Suldog. I was pretty disappointed when Target announced they’d be opening at 9pm on Thanksgiving this year—and grateful we have laws that prevent that here in Mass (although, opening at midnight or 1am isn’t much better, but at least it gives workers an opportunity to get a few hours sleep after dinner). Overall, I’m concerned that a holiday in which we are supposed to celebrate what we have and spend time with our family and friends is being turned into the Christmas shopping preview. These stores push a little more every year to open earlier and customers keep biting. Until people refuse to shop that early, the stores will just keep doing it until maybe they’re open all or most of Thanksgiving Day.

    You guys, there are plenty of people who work on Thanksgiving

    Of course we have have emergency responders, police and fire, and I don't think we want them to take the day off. After all, many people still try to deep fry their frozen turkeys every year, resulting in ridiculous fires.

    Then of course we have hospital workers, doctors and nurses. I think you'll agree we need to have at least one hospital open every day. As I understand it, hotels are usually open on Thanksgiving, so I'm assuming they need to have their staff around, maids, front desk people, doormen, maintenance staff. Those places don't just run themselves.

    As you drive to Grandpa Joe's house to enjoy turkey and stuffing, you might need to stop and fill up the car with gas and pick up a Coke or a cup of coffee for the trip. As far as I know, this is not an automated transaction, and there is usually a guy working behind the counter at the gas station.

    And then, of course, there are the hundreds of restaurants that are open every year for Thanksgiving dinner. Many are obligated to be open 365 days a year (you'll mostly find those places in hotels), but many choose to open to offer a meal to families that just don't want to cook at home. You'll find servers, line cooks, managers, cleaning staff, and dishwashers toiling away for long hours.

    I agree that places like Macy's and Best Buy should not be able to open on Thanksgiving, and should wait until Black Friday to offer their sales (Black Friday is enough, thank you very much). But I hear this argument every year and am frankly sick of it. I've worked more than my share of Thanksgivings (and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day too), and there are many other people who do the same, and I think you'll agree that many of them must work in order to have a functioning society, and many others choose to work in order to support their families. Please keep them in mind as you fight the good fight against the big box retailers.

    Alex, I Agree

    I am very grateful to the people who work holidays at jobs. I can't begin to say "Thank You" enough to the folks who provide the services you speak of. Where I draw the line is in FORCING minimum wage people to work ridiculous hours that not only turn Thanksgiving into a shopping day and deny those folks time with family, but also are probably extremely unhealthy for the poor schlubs who pull those 16 and 20 hour shifts including overnight.

    Somebody needs to join those folks in their fight. I've chosen to do so.

    Perhaps this updated (obscene) version of my poster will clarify how I feel about it.

    IMAGE(http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-lAL_o698nJA/UKUj_R9P7tI/AAAAAAAAGOc/asV27AMzJAE/s640/GreedyFuck.jpg)

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

    I guess I don't understand the distinction you're making here

    Alex here. Finally remembered my UHub account name.

    Firstly, I believe you are being genuine when you say thanks to all the people who work on holidays. However, I don't understand this:

    Where I draw the line is in FORCING minimum wage people to work ridiculous hours that not only turn Thanksgiving into a shopping day and deny those folks time with family, but also are probably extremely unhealthy for the poor schlubs who pull those 16 and 20 hour shifts including overnight.

    I'm not an expert on wages paid in MA, but my guess is that most gas station/convenience store workers are paid minimum wage or somewhere near there. In restaurants, line cooks and dishwashers are paid more than minimum wage, but not that much more (and as I'm sure you know, waitstaff are paid $2.63 per hour regardless of the day, but are hopefully well compensated for working the holiday by patrons).

    Anyone who works on a holiday is unable to spend that time with their family. While I agree that there should be no shopping on Thanksgiving, why all the outrage for shopping mall employees only?

    It's A Good Question

    I guess my best answer is that it's the fight I've chosen to fight at this time. The petitions are out there, started by some of those workers, and what they're decrying is a new incursion on the holiday. I'd much prefer as few people having to work on Thanksgiving as possible, if that helps.

    By the way, I've worked on both Thanksgiving and Christmas in the past. I had a job as a security guard and I took shifts from 11pm to 7am on the evening of both days one year. The distinction I'm drawn to is that the shifts I worked were offered, not demanded, and in addition they paid double-time-and-a-half. For Target employees (and others) this year came as a shock to them. They may have expected to work Black Friday, maybe even beginning at midnight, but the openings at 8pm or 9pm were not announced until about a week ago. And (just my opinion) time-and-a-half is nowhere near good compensation for when they'll be working, the crowds they'll face, and the exhausting amount of hours.

    I hope that helps.

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

    WBZ, Tonight, 6pm

    I was asked to be on-camera, for a story on the blue laws, but had to decline due to (among other things) work taking precedence. However, the reporter just e-mailed me to say she wanted to still use my blog in the story.

    (Gulp!)

    Knowing my penchant for doubling back on my own comments, this is likely to blow everything I've said here out of the water :-)

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

    I also appreciate our first

    I also appreciate our first responders, bus drivers, etc who must work on the holiday. We couldn’t function as a society without them. However, I think the difference here is when you work as a nurse, firefighter, convenience store clerk, etc you realize the type of hours and responsibility that comes with your job. And I know for many kinds of folks with those jobs, there are rotating holidays so you don't have to work all the time. My friend who’s a nurse has to work Thanksgiving this year but has Christmas off; and next year that will reverse. Folks in retail know there is an expectation to work on Black Friday, but it’s unfair when that expectation is now extended to the evening before.

    I just see little difference

    I just see little difference between having a 7-Eleven open so that one can buy the tortilla chips they forgot to get the day before or having a restaurant open so that people can eat out instead of cooking versus opening a Wal-Mart so someone can shop. If you're going to get mad about one, you should be mad about all of them.

    One could also look at movie theaters. Many families have a tradition of going to watch a movie after holiday dinner, or to escape the family for a few hours. Why no outrage over those people working on a holiday?

    Those are jobs that are

    Those are jobs that are essential to public healthy and safety and need to be staffed 24/7. It's comparing apples and oranges. No one's life is at risk if Best Buy and Dunk's close for a day. Retail store won't lose sales by not opening. People will still buy whatever they want to buy for the holidays, just on on the holidays.

    Restaurants do a brisk business on holidays serving holiday dinners to families on the day of the holiday only. Some will have a special Thanksgiving menu just for this occasion. So I don't think you can compare them with stores that sell consumer goods. A restaurant that closes Thanksgiving will lose business and customers. People aren't going to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to have Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant. I certainly don't think places like McD's or Dunk's need to be open on Thanksgiving to hand people coffee and fast food, but I totally think there is a place for restaurants that want to serve real Thanksgiving dinner to families who, for whatever reason, aren't cooking at home.

    How are mall workers any

    How are mall workers any different than anyone working in a restaurant? You say this:

    Restaurants do a brisk business on holidays serving holiday dinners to families on the day of the holiday only. Some will have a special Thanksgiving menu just for this occasion. So I don't think you can compare them with stores that sell consumer goods. A restaurant that closes Thanksgiving will lose business and customers. People aren't going to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to have Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant.

    Aren't the people who are employed by the owner of the restaurant essentially being forced to work on the holiday so that the owner can do their "brisk business?" If this is the only qualification for asking people to work holidays, why can't Best Buy do the same? What about hotel workers? Or convenience store workers? Why do people always get in a uproar about malls being open on holidays when so many other "non-essential" businesses are allowed to function with no expression of outrage?

    I've worked many a day in a restaurant on holidays, and while I did not mind it, many of my fellow workers did. However, they had little choice because it was a condition of their employment. However, being open on a holiday is hardly an essential service needed for cities and towns to function.

    Counterpoint

    In MA, a retailer can't force an employee to work on a holiday. MGL c. 136, s. 6(50). (Or at least they're not supposed to; it's a relatively obscure law for employers and employees alike.)

    Also, retail employees get time-and-a-half for holiday work.

    So if you have employees who want to work and get that extra pay, and if there are shoppers who want to shop - why not let em?

    just my 1.5 cents

    I always find it quaint when a group of people take it upon themselves to take umbrage for "other" people, to tell them what they should do, how they should live, whether or not they get to earn an income or spend their income, or what they "should" be doing with their time on a particular day on the calendar. Why stop at Thanksgiving? Shouldn't every place be closed on Sundays, too, because you think everyone should be at church all day?

    If you don't want to buy anything on Thanksgiving, then don't buy anything on Thanksgiving. If you really had the power of the people behind you, then the stores would be empty and they would stay closed. The fact that there are huge crowds tells you that there is demand, and the stores should be allowed to meet that demand. You can say whatever you want about what it says about our society, but it's not your prerogative to engage in social engineering just because you, in your infinite wisdom, think everyone should live in a Norman Rockwell painting.

    Not "Telling" People What To Do, Etc.

    Just asking them to stand up and be counted. As I've said in a few of the pieces I've written concerning this, if we can't get the numbers to influence change then that's the way it is. Too bad for us.

    I would no more ask folks to be at church all day than you would ask me to do so. Don't throw a straw man into the mix.

    As for "taking umbrage", there are quite a few of those "other" people who have asked us to take umbrage on their behalf. That's what the petitions are about. So, I signed and I encourage others to sign. And I try to help in other ways by swaying opinion.

    If you take offense at these things, or anything else I'm doing in an attempt to save a holiday I love, too bad. I'll damn well engage in "social engineering", just as you seem willing to do via your commentary. It's all words. You say yours, I'll say mine.

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

    This...kind of.

    I don't fault stores for being open on Thanksgiving. I do, however, find it ridiculous that there is enough demand for stores to be open on Thanksgiving that they do open. The problem is the general public.

    I think it boils down to perceived need

    and how folks perceive that need.

    In the dark ages, major holidays were sacred and folks really took a day of rest on Sundays. So now we can shop on Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day and now Thanksgiving is fleeting because, what, we need (do we really, really?) need to shop on that day. And most importantly, don't retail workers also deserve a chance to be at home with loved ones on the same holidays that are given to non retail workers?

    We are speaking of a few days out of an entire fracking year, folks. Never mind the folks that have to work (police, fire, hotel workers, nursing homes, hospitals), that is a mute point. There have always been industries where, as part of your job, you had to work on major holidays due to the nature of the job. Workers in retail (the Targets, the Best Buys, the mall stores) are not providing an essential service to the public (as in police, fire, hotel, et. al.) The stores that they work at do not protect the public, take care of the public or offer a place to sleep. This is the difference. If the stores had their way, I believe they would try to snatch Christmas up too. But is it essential? In my opinion, no.

    I think this will be the last

    I think this will be the last I say, because I've said enough (or too much). Retail encompasses many different businesses, and those include convenience stores, gas stations, and restaurants (really!).

    One can easily argue that gas stations are essential (and I would completely agree), but in what way are convenience stores (such as 7-Eleven, CVS, etc.) and restaurants (of any type, from L'espalier to any local diner) essential to the running of society?

    I'm also not saying I think all businesses should close on major holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. All I'm saying is that I don't understand the outrage when Best Buy and Target want to open on these days. Plenty of people in non-essential-to-life-continuing-as-we-know-it type jobs are told to show up for work on those days, and no one gets angry at all. In fact, people would be more upset if these types of businesses were closed.

    I keep bringing up restaurants, but they're a perfect example. Would society cease to function if all restaurants were forced to be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas like Target and Best Buy? I say no. However, people like to go to restaurants on these days (i.e. there's a market for these businesses to enter) and the ones that open tell their employees to show up for work. Why is Best Buy (and the outrage over people being told to go to work) any different?

    My Last, Too

    Unless someone impugns what little integrity I have, then I'll have to go back to being a blowhard.

    I want to thank aabhowell for presenting calm, reasoned arguments. I hope I've responded in kind to him.

    I think my best statement in response was the one entitled "It's A Good Question", and I'll leave it at that.

    Happy Thanksgiving, everybody, no matter how you choose to celebrate it, and if you find a need to work on that day I hope someone gives you a drumstick and a smile.

    Suldog
    http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com