Story by: ALICIA HOPKINS
With more stores than ever racing to open their doors on Thanksgiving, millions of retail workers are spending more time on the clock than with their own families and loved ones. The success of Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, is leading many companies to want to flip on their open signs earlier and earlier to earn as much profit as possible from this huge weekend of holiday spending.
Companies such as Best Buy, JC Penney, Target, Macy’s, Kohls, Walmart, and many more are now opening for Black Friday on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. A Target executive even called shopping at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving a “tradition” when the company announced its opening time. On November 26, this past Thanksgiving, a record number of stores were open. Shoppers may have been in paradise, but retail employees and their families did not share the sentiment.
To many Americans, Thanksgiving is a significant national holiday—whether it means eating profuse amounts of food, spending quality time with family, or watching football. For the lucky ones, work is usually the furthest thing from their minds. Thanksgiving has traditionally been a day for Americans to give thanks and be grateful for everything they have.
However, with stores now opening on Thanksgiving and advertising such great deals, it is easy to give into the temptation of going shopping. It is easy to forget that people have to give up time with their own families in order to work—in order to help feed our insatiable consumer appetites. It is easy to forget that retail workers are real people. The only difference is that they do not get a break or a holiday. They do not get to eat profuse amounts of food, spend quality time with their families, or watch football on Thanksgiving.
Mario Torres, a Best Buy employee, had to work on Thanksgiving this year like millions of other retail workers across the United States. This year was his second consecutive Thanksgiving he spent working at Best Buy. He recalls the exact words his old general manager said last year. “There will be absolutely no calling-out on Thanksgiving. I don’t care if you’re in the hospital. I’ll drag your hospital bed to work!” She was joking obviously, but they take this day very seriously. “It’s all hands on deck. Nobody gets to spend the day off,” said Torres.
Torres felt especially angry this year because he had been with the company for longer than many of his coworkers and his new manager had promised to let him choose whether he wanted to work on Thanksgiving or not. However, he was forced to work without any say and even worse, he was left with a broken promise. He had made plans to spend the day with his family and girlfriend, but instead of eating Thanksgiving dinner with them he spent his time at work helping what he described as many greedy and ungrateful strangers. “If you’re in retail, you better hope that you’re close to your coworkers. You spend more time with them during the holidays than you do with your own family,” said Torres.
Kelsey Faut, a coworker of Torres, expressed the same anger. “It sickens me that I don’t get to spend time with my family because instead of being thankful for everything they have, people are lining up for door busters,” she said. “When I’m out of retail, I will never do that to someone! This holiday is being pushed away due to the selfishness of humanity.”
In fact, Torres and Faut are not the only ones upset about working on Thanksgiving. Millions of retail workers across the nation are feeling their same exasperation. Some of them even took to Change.org, the world’s most powerful platform for petitioning and one of the most influential tools for online activism, to express their anger.
More than 280,000 people signed petitions on Change.org in favor of retail stores staying closed on Thanksgiving Day. There are over 100 petitions related to “saving Thanksgiving” on the website. Unfortunately, most of these petitions will fail because many companies cannot afford to close their doors on Thanksgiving—there is just too much revenue to be made. The only way to stop companies from continuing to open their doors on Thanksgiving would be for consumers to give up shopping on that day altogether.
It is safe to predict that next year even more stores will be opening on Thanksgiving Day, which means even more people will be spending their time on the clock. These retail workers will not get a break. They will not get a chance to spend time with their families. They will not get a Thanksgiving. It is astonishing how so many consumers still have enough energy to go shopping after eating a whole plate of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes.