When schoolchildren are asked what Thanksgiving means to them, they usually say something about food or being thankful. They don’t tend to say “shopping” or “Mom has to work at the mall.”
But that’s what quite a few major retailers seem to want us to focus on this year, with stores pushing the start of Christmas shopping to Thanksgiving Day itself. Cram in the turkey and head out to shop Black Friday is now Black Thursday.
It means you’re getting a day off from work (and kids are losing two to three days of school) so you can buy Christmas gifts early, rather than go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving dinner and family time.
For years, retailers have been pushing back the start of Christmas Santa Clauses and holiday wrapping paper are already in the stores while you shop for Halloween candy. Now major retailers are giving their low paid employees the raw end of the deal by making them work on Thanksgiving instead of being home with their families. And we’d bet the CEOs of major retail stores aren’t spending the day in their corner offices.
We can all understand why doctors, nurses, paramedics, news folk, police and firefighters don’t always get to celebrate Thanksgiving and any other holiday with their family. Fires and other emergencies don’t check the calendar, nor do childbirth or illness. But getting first in line for a sale on a big-screen TV? Grabbing up discounted socks? Those are not emergencies.
We can all use a sale, but we can also use a break from work and a chance to relax with family or friends. That’s the heart of Thanksgiving, and that experience helps us realize what we really are thankful for. But when low wage workers have to choose between their job and their family time so retailers can have one more day to lure in shoppers, a line has been crossed.
This country is long changed from the Norman Rockwell images of big families crowded around the Thanksgiving dinner table, but most of us still mark the occasion by gathering with family or friends and pausing for a few hours from the constant jabbering of the online world. Sure, after dinner we can log on and see what’s on sale. But we find it hard to accept that the only way major retailers can compete with online shoppers is to make their sales staff skip Thanksgiving. If that’s true, why not keep every store open 24/7, just like the internet. And if that’s what we’ve come to, what, other than greed, does Thanksgiving mean today.