by Laura K. Garrison
Every Thanksgiving, people across the country sit down with family and friends and give thanks for all the wonderful things in their lives and dig into a bountiful meal satisfied with what they have. And everyone lives happily ever after. The end.
Just kidding. This is America after all.
This Friday, millions of Americans will descend on shopping malls at ridiculously early hours on the hunt for door-buster deals that only happen one day a year. That day happens to be Black Friday, the day immediately after a holiday in which we are supposed to reflect on all the things we are thankful for in our lives.
I’ve never shopped on Black Friday, and while I once saw the novelty of it, I never will participate in what has clearly become an arms race for retailers. This year, countless stores across the country will start their sales on Thanksgiving Day, including large chains like Sears, Macy’s, Target, Kmart, JC Penney, Sports Authority, Old Navy, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. While this may seem like a great idea to the shopaholic in all of us, those stores need to be manned with people, people who have families who want to share Thanksgiving with their loved ones.
As someone who has family members who work in retail, every year around the holidays we must take into consideration everyone’s work schedules to decide when and where we should hold Thanksgiving dinner. For the past couple of years, my family has had trouble coming together on Thanksgiving, partially because someone needs to wake up early to get to work the next morning. Not only is this sad, it’s really not necessary. There is plenty of time to shop before the holidays, and Black Friday sales aren’t even that impressive. The most popular shopping day of the year is actually the Saturday before Christmas, and sales only get better the closer we get to December 25th.
There’s something particularly distressing about stores opening on Thanksgiving Day, some as early as 7am (thank you Big Lots!). Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that are almost universally celebrated in the United States, and everyone can think of something exciting about Turkey Day. Seeing family! Watching the parade! Eating a huge dinner! Watching football! Store openings are now preventing some individuals from enjoying these activities with their loved ones, or at the very least cutting down on the time they can spend with their family. When we sit down at the table, we should anticipate watching TV or taking a nap after dinner, not running to the mall.
Black Friday, in reality, isn’t any better. Even if a store waits until early Friday morning to open their doors, chances are their staff will have arrived even earlier and had to adjust their holiday plans in some way to accommodate their hours. While they may receive overtime pay, I’m still not convinced this is fair compensation for missed time with family, only so that we can buy a huge flat-screen television at a fraction of the cost.
We’ve all seen the footage on TV of Black Friday shoppers rushing into stores, bound and determined to grab whatever they can before someone else does. Every year, we hear about injuries and, during the worst years, deaths related to Black Friday shopping. It’s the same phenomenon we’ve witnessed as college students around free food (cough cough Big Sub): people lose all control and lack all reason when the opportunity to gain is present, with disturbing results. No material good at an absurdly low price is worth the casualties. Especially when many of the goods may actually be of substandard quality.
This year, I hope you and your loved ones have a thoroughly enjoyable Thanksgiving filled with good food and quality family time. The only way to show retailers that everyone deserves a Thanksgiving holiday is if we choose to stay home and enjoy the company of our loved ones while we can. There will be other sales after Black Friday, I promise. Go shopping then.
Laura K. Garrison is a senior at Barnard and Senior Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.
Image courtesy of someecards.