If you’re one of those people who plans to go shopping on Thanksgiving Day, I want you to reconsider. This is a relatively new “tradition” in America, and its not a positive one. The entire point of Thanksgiving is being undermined by the retailers and consumers who participate in this obnoxious activity of Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving is a unique holiday that draws from American’s historic sense of gratitude for our many blessings. Whether you believe that America’s success comes from a God, divine providence, evil imperialists, or dumb luck, we have it good in America (and Canada, who celebrates Thanksgiving in mid-October) and that deserves to be observed for at least one day of the year. Gratitude is the salient point. Grateful people are happier than the ungrateful, and happier people make the world a better place.
Thanksgiving has been a national holiday since 1863. Ever since the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the start of the Christmas season — even the television networks wouldn’t begin playing Christmas specials before Thanksgiving. Police began to complain about the traffic congestion on the day after Thanksgiving and so the distinctly negative word “Black Friday” was used. Retailers soon realized that they could draw crowds to their stores by offering sales, and Black Friday became “the day” to begin shopping for Christmas. But retailers respected the holiday and stayed closed on Thanksgiving.
Around the year 2000 the internet was peeling off enough sales from retailers that they pushed back by offering door busters early on the morning of Black Friday. They offered severely discounted items, like popular electronics, to the first few people in the door — everybody after them would pay the “normal” sale price, which typically is not an impressive discount. Its a marketing trick called a loss-leader to get people in their store. People began camping outside the store on Thanksgiving night, or even days in advance, in order to get the loss-leader. Eventually the opening hours creeped earlier and earlier, until just a few years ago some retailers began to open on Thanksgiving day. Once one store did it, their competitors followed their lead.
This is a culturally negative trend. Its obnoxious for retailers to make these demands of their employees. You can shop all year; to take one day and spend it with your family is important and should not be so easily dismissed. Employees don’t want to work on Thanksgiving, but they cannot defy their employer and risk losing their jobs, so they do as they are told. They don’t have the luxury of telling their boss to “shove it” right before Christmas.
There will always be a few people who don’t care about American traditions and will pursue door buster sales no matter when they are held. Retailers could simply revert back to Black Friday to hold their big sales and that’s when shoppers would arrive, but by opening on Thanksgiving it forces low income shoppers, who would otherwise say home at that time, to seek out the discounts. Its a vicious cycle of retailers chasing other retailers, shoppers chasing other shoppers, until now you have K-Mart opening at the depressingly early hour of 6:00 am on Thanksgiving morning and staying open for the ensuing 42 hours straight! It’s disrespectful to their employees and to our American culture.
Fortunately there has been positive push-back from consumers. Surveys show that 60% of Americans hate that stores open on Thanksgiving. As many as two dozen major chains and department stores have heard the message and are now actively promoting that they are staying closed on Thanksgiving. A “Boycott Black Thursday” Facebook page exists now to promote this cause.
Ultimately its you and I, the consumers, who will decide if this ugly trend continues, or dies off as it should. As a culture we should decide where our priorities lie, and individually we can vote with our wallets and our feet by staying home on Thanksgiving, and patronizing the stores who respect one of our most important holidays.