Now it is Thanksgiving week, many of us have a few days off to spend with family and friends. Or maybe we will just watch TV alone all day without a shred of guilt. I remember when it was a long, luxurious, slightly lazy few days where school was closed and parents were home from work. Everyone I knew hung around the house overeating, over-napping. It was heaven.
Fast forward to the present. Now Thanksgiving is just another day for families to shove food down their throats before they pack their kids into the car for the annual “Shop until your credit card gets declined” marathon.
The expression, “Black Friday,” was first used in Philadelphia in 1966. It described the terrible traffic on the day after Thanksgiving, caused by the start of the Christmas shopping season.
Stores closed on Thanksgiving to allow their employees one last night of peace before the extreme sport of Christmas shopping began. To maximize the time stores could get consumers to spend their hard-earned cash, shops began opening at 6am on the day after Thanksgiving. People lined up in front of the store the night before to make sure they got that completely unnecessary item before anyone else. Ripping sales items out of another person’s hands became acceptable. Civility got the bum’s rush.
Of course, there were casualties. Who can forget seven years ago when 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour lost his life at a Long Island Walmart just so others could get insane door-buster deals on crap they did not need. Walmart still has not paid the $7,000 fine levied by OSHA.
This year, crass consumerism is now fully out in the open: BuyBuyBuyBuy! Stores don’t even pretend to care about the well-being of their employees. They no longer close on Thanksgiving, forcing their employees to work. There is no shame in flagrantly choosing money over family, profits over employee morale.
The dark heart of mass consumerism is encapsulated in one suburban Buffalo, New York mall, the Walden Galleria. It should get the 2014 Retail Dick of the Year award. Pyramid Management Group, whIch owns the mall, actually has the audacity to fine stores that refuse to open at 6pm on Thanksgiving. The approximately $200 an hour fine is punishment for retailers who choose to close their stores to provide their employees a well-deserved day with their families. The Facebook page for the mall shows the push-back from shoppers, with the majority calling out the retail giant for greed and just being generally evil. Seriously, the Grinch is apparently a corporation that financially punishes small businesses that shows the slightest compassion for their underpaid, overworked staff. “This is a great mall if you hate the holidays and family time” is the best quote on the page.
But don’t despair if you are trying to buy that blender that you so desperately need for only $19.99! The Walden Galleria is not the only giant corporation that thinks Thanksgiving is for the weak. Many stores and national chains are saying “Screw the family, who needs them, amiright?” Instead of staying home and hanging with the family (notwithstanding drunk uncle Bob and inappropriate cousin Cathy), go shopping,
It’s the American way! There’s even a web page dedicated to making sure you forgo any semblance of humanity telling you all the stores that are open from 8am Thursday morning through Sunday! It’s like a never-ending buffet of stores who have hearts made of cash registers.
Now I’m sure there are those of you who think that I am anti-capitalism. Yes, I am — when it comes to choosing people over profits. Closing one day of the year will not break your company. If it does, you are a terrible manager. There is absolutely no logical reason for anyone to buy anything from places other than a grocery store or gas station on Thanksgiving. It’s a non-religious holiday, so it’s for everyone to enjoy. It’s the holiday dedicated to food and football. Kids come home from college with massive loads of laundry. It’s a time for families to actually get to know each other again.
We are so slavishly devoted to shopping that getting up at 3am to wait in a freezing parking lot to buy an item we do not need, while being crushed by thousands of fools behind us seems perfectly normal. There is something incredibly depressing about that. Between computers, cell phones, TV, Facebook, video games and every other electronic device, we are spending less and less time connecting to each other on a personal level. Do families even eat dinner together anymore? Thanksgiving should be the one day a year we sit down together to share our lives with those with whom we are closest. It’s a day to slow down, put the devices away and talk to each other. It’s the lost art of conversation, the lost art of lazing around the house with your family while doing nothing. The stores will be there all weekend. So will the sales. They will be just fine without you, but your family will not.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!