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What’s The Big Deal About Retailers Opening On Thanksgiving?

Retailers Thanksgiving

Few holiday-related business stories have garnered the attention this year that the decision by several retailers, ranging from WalMart and Target to Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy, to open their stores for at least part of the day tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day. To many people, most of whom are likely not even personally affected by these decisions, it seems to be an affront to a day that is supposed to be spent with family and friends watching parades, eating, and watching football. Several retailers, including companies such as Costco, have responded to the entire phenomenon by making a big deal out of their decision to close on Thanksgiving Day.

In reality, of course, the idea of earlier opening hours on Thanksgiving is really just the logical extension of the entire “Black Friday” phenomenon, which started out with retailers opening up incredibly early on the day after Thanksgiving to offer supposed “sales” on high-demand products, or even on products that nobody seemed particularly interested in until they were offered at a significantly reduced price. Year after year for awhile now, we’ve seen video of people waiting in lines long before these stores opened and then bunching up against the doors in the minutes before the store was officially opened. Inevitably, there would be injuries of some kind or another as store personnel would prove themselves to be incapable of crowd control. Several years ago, the hours for the start of “Black Friday” gradually started getting pushed back from the early hours of Friday itself to midnight, and then to sometime late at night such as 10pm or so. It wasn’t until the last few years, though, that we started to see the phenomenon of stores opening up during putative daylight hours on Thanksgiving and this year seems to be the year when that phenomenon is catching on with retailers, much to the consternation of some.

The argument against the whole practice of opening on Thanksgiving is both easy to understand and purely emotional. Retailers shouldn’t be forcing their employees to choose between their families and their jobs on a day that is supposed to be about family, the argument goes, even if it means passing up a chance of earning something far higher than their normal hourly wage. While I’m sympathetic to that argument, it’s worth noting that some retailers have almost always been open for at least some time on Thanksgiving Day, specifically grocery and convenience stores that are typically open until some point in the early afternoon for the convenience of customers. Clearly, this has proven to be a smart business decision because it’s something that been a practice everywhere I’ve lived at least since I was a teenager.  Just as obviously, those stores need to be staffed, albeit likely be a much smaller staff than on a normal day, during the hours the store is open. So, it’s not as if the idea of stores being open on Thanksgiving is some kind of new phenomenon. All we’re seeing now is an expansion of that concept into retailing, where the Christmas shopping season that traditionally starts on Black Friday can make or break a business for the entire year.

The people at Think Progress are, predictably, lashing out against the retailers who are open tomorrow, arguing that they are unfairly depriving their employees of the ability to spend time with their families. However, Matthew Yglesias makes an interesting counter-observation:

I remember when Christmas Day in DC when I was sitting around the house alone watching basketball because I’m Jewish, and I decided to take a halftime trip to the Safeway. The store wasn’t very busy and I was bored and curious so I asked the (African-American and presumably not Jewish) woman working the register if it was a bummer to have to work on Christmas. She said, basically, no that it was a great opportunity to pick up an extra shift and earn overtime pay. That seemed like a very sensible answer.

(…)

[I]n a diverse nation with over 300 million citizens, opinions are going to vary on the pros and cons of extended business hours. How strapped for cash are you? Where does your family live? What’s your relationship with them like? How sentimental are you about specific holiday rituals? People will differ. This Thanksgiving there are going to be people with jobs at the Gap who wish they weren’t working Thanksgiving but feel that they’d lose their jobs if they weren’t willing to take an extra shift. There are also going to be people with jobs at Radio Shack who wish they could earn some extra cash and get out from under that credit card debt. I’m not persuaded that there’s a first-order question of social justice here one way or the other.

The other part of the equation, of course, is that these retailers would not be opening on Thanksgiving if they didn’t think they’d get the customer traffic, and subsequent sales, to justify the cost of opening the store, which includes not just the salaries for the employees but also the additional operating costs for heat, electricity, etc. which would ordinarily be set on lower levels if the store was closed. Indeed, it seems fairly clear that the entire history of Black Friday sales beginning earlier and earlier has been a response to market demand. Otherwise, why would we consistently see such large crowds each time it happens? If shoppers show up tomorrow, then that would seem to justify that business decision that these retailers have made. If they don’t, then perhaps they will have learned a lesson about how eager people are to go shopping on a day that people are typically used to staying at home (or at someone else’s home) and they will react accordingly. In either case, this is how the free market works, by responding to the choices of consumers.

So, if you don’t like the idea of stores being open on Thanksgiving, then the solution is to not go shopping on Thanksgiving Day. If it doesn’t matter to you and you’re bored enough to decide to make a trek to the mall, that’s your choice as well. Whatever you decide, though, as Yglesias notes, this isn’t really a “social justice” issue, it’s a matter of the choices that individual make and how those choices impact the operation of businesses. So, America, go decide for yourself tomorrow. Personally, I fall into the stay at home crowd, but then I’m not very big on shopping in stores to begin with.

Photo via International Business Times

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    I was in electronic manufacturing and worked on Thanksgiving many times. Thanksgiving comes close to the end of the year when we had contract obligations coming due. I even worked on Christmas once when we had to meet a deadline for equipment for the Sprint fiber optic network. Early in my career when I was hourly the double time and a half was a financial windfall. Latter when I was salaried not so much but my sacrifice usually resulted in a pretty good raise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  2. Pinky says:

    My guess is that a 4pm Thursday quick trip to the mall while everyone else is watching football would be less disruptive to the family than a 2am Friday trip.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  3. Ben says:

    If shoppers show up tomorrow, then that would seem to justify that business decision that these retailers have made. If they don’t, then perhaps they will have learned a lesson about how eager people are to go shopping on a day that people are typically used to staying at home (or at someone else’s home) and they will react accordingly. In either case, this is how the free market works, by responding to the choices of consumers.

    To say nothing of the poor employees forced to shut up and do what they’re told. The free market assumes that all people can freely act in a rational way to changing circumstances, without duress. The thing is, the great majority of people can’t react like the “free market” says they should act. Most of the time, people are told that if their job is treating them like dog feces, they should quit and go elsewhere. That completely ignores the current state of the job market as well as the financial devastation that comes from most people spending any indefinite amount of time between jobs.

    I know that if my employer told me I had to work on Thanksgiving (or Christmas), I would be extremely pissed off, as well as completely and totally impotent to do anything about it. Quitting is completely impossible, unless I want to lose my house and have my family wearing barrels. The free market is an illusion for most individual actors.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 45 Thumb down 6

  4. Mu says:

    The problem is online sales. Last year Amazon basically matched most sales, from home, and hours before the store had them. So not opening on Thanksgiving drives a huge part of the shopping crowd online.
    OTOH, any city could pass an ordinance closing retail stores above a certain size Thanksgiving 6 pm to Friday 6 am, and kill the whole madness. Probably save a lot on police overtime too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. Ryan says:

    @Ben:
    The point in your second paragraph about not having a choice to work is spot on. I worked retail in high school and college and it was mandatory that we work holidays, our families be damned. Every time Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Christmas Eve/Christmas rolled around everyone just hoped that they got lucky and weren’t scheduled, since if you were, you had to show up or be fired. Requesting those days off ahead of time was always, always, rejected.

    The “big deal” about retailers opening on Thanksgiving is less about consumer access and more about the employees not having a choice in the matter.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 3

  6. @Ron Beasley:

    When I was growing up my Dad worked at a chemical manufacturing plant in NJ that basically operated on a round the clock basis. That meant that there had to be a shift on duty at all times, which inevitably meant that people ended up working on days like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yea there were times it sucked when it screwed with family dinner and such, but that was life. (It’s also worth noting that the hourly pay rate for working holidays like that was double time and a half so it all resulted in a nice big paycheck at the end of it all)

    I’m not sure why that situation, which was inevitable given the nature of how the factory operated, is any different from retail work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  7. Also worth noting all those people affiliated with the NFL who will be working tomorrow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  8. Moosebreath says:

    “While I’m sympathetic to that argument, it’s worth noting that some retailers have almost always been open for at least some time on Thanksgiving Day, specifically grocery and convenience stores that are typically open until some point in the early afternoon for the convenience of customers.”

    And most retailers have not been open. And typically the employees knew when they applied for the grocvery and convenience store jobs that it was a possibility (and that they would be home by dinner time). On the other hand, clothing or electronic retail store employees did not (and will need to leave after an early dinner this year).

    Of course, the expectations of the 99%ers who work in the stores doesn’t matter to a True Libertarian. Only the profits of the 1%ers who own the stores and who will be at home with their families on Thanksgiving.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

  9. C. Clavin says:

    This is where the free market actually exists…if you don’t like it don’t shop there.
    But I, as a consumer, shouldn’t be beholden to your problems.
    And if I’m a business I shouldn’t either.
    I sure as hell hope the grocery store is open for everything I’ve forgotten.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  10. Grewgills says:

    Thanksgiving is about family and giving thanks, not the specific day. Because of the expense of travel at that time (part of our family is off island) we generally have our Thanksgiving before or after the official day. The travel and other arrangements are cheaper and easier.
    This year will be quiet at home with 10 day old daughter avoiding all things outside.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  11. Woody says:

    I’ve worked my share of holidays (restaurant server), agree that the criticisms are much ado over nothing – with the caveat that these businesses and owners of these businesses should not then characterize themselves as “pro-family” etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: In my area there is garbage pickup on every holiday with the exception of Christmas and in that case they have to work the following Saturday. And then the police and fire departments – they have to be fully staffed. Ditto for the electric utilities which this time of the year must expect the worst.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. grumpy realist says:

    I’d be far more accepting if we could be in fact certain that this was entirely voluntary and that no ramification would fall on any employee who refuses to work on a holiday.

    The weak point in the argument that “well, doctors/policemen/etc. have to work on those days as well” is that possible holiday work is understood as a requirement of employment from the very beginning. A retail store saying “well, this year we’re going to have to force some of you work through the holidays” is a unilateral change in the (unwritten) conditions of employment after the contract has been signed. That’s a no-no. If they want to add an additional contract for their employees who are willing to work on the holidays, fine–but they should realize that the original contract was signed and completed and both sides should be held to the original conditions.

    I’m surprised as a lawyer you don’t remember your contract law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  14. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. This is one main problem with working for an international company. I wasn’t expected to get Xmas off because I was in Japan and our company worked through Xmas, but then when the New Year’s holidays rolled around the U.S. side was screaming for everyone in Japan to be up and running right after the 1st.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills:

    quiet at home with 10 day old daughter

    Congratulations! But, “quiet”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Maus Merryjest says:

    @Ryan: Well, honestly, what do you expect if you have no skills that make you a worthwhile worker outside of basically being a body to use? You lot railing against the free market keep forgetting that one thing you bring into the market is profit— how much are you worth? If you’re unskilled or are easily replaceable by someone with an identical set of skills… sorry, but you have to face reality. And maybe you should be spending your free time acquiring skills that increase your value. But that would actually imply planning for the future instead of living in the now and desiring instant gratification.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 20

  17. Mikey says:

    @Ben: I’m puzzled by your apparent assertion that the existence of consequences invalidates the free market. You’re free to leave just about any job, at any time, for any reason. That you have to then deal with the repercussions doesn’t mean the free market is a myth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 11

  18. Ben says:

    @Mikey:

    I’m puzzled by your apparent assertion that the existence of consequences invalidates the free market. You’re free to leave just about any job, at any time, for any reason. That you have to then deal with the repercussions doesn’t mean the free market is a myth.

    In the case of most employees, the consequences are so incredibly dire that they are in fact not free to do anything about the situation at all. There is constructively no choice whatsoever.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  19. Mikey says:

    @Ben: Of course any employee is free to walk out, but they also have to deal with the fact they are responsible to others and the consequences of losing their income may be damaging to those others.

    You seem to be confusing “freedom” with “total lack of responsibility.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

  20. Anonne says:

    Let’s give thanks for what we have by stoking the materialistic consumerism that is already encroaching on the months of September and August, overtaking Halloween! Really, it’s ridiculous.

    I refuse to shop on Thursday because there are more important things in life than rushing out to buy stuff, and I think workers deserve a day off to spend with their families. The workers have no voice. It’s like how Labor Day has become a joke and most stores are open.

    As for comparing essential personnel like law enforcement to a retail clerk, I think that is reaching. Using that logic, there should be no holidays and everyone should have to work every day.

    Even so, I will vote with my feet and encourage others to do so – as it is my right, the same way it is your right to complain about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  21. wr says:

    Doug: “Whatever you decide, though, as Yglesias notes, this isn’t really a “social justice” issue, it’s a matter of the choices that individual make and how those choices impact the operation of businesses.”

    Because as always in libertarianAmerica, the only individuals who are allowed to make choices are the owners. The employees? They can choose between working on the holiday and getting fired, which Doug will no doubt describe as freedom.

    Hey, what if I’m the CEO of Walmart and I decide it violates my religious principles not to work on a secular holiday — am I being oppressed if I have to pay my employees extra for that day?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  22. rudderpedals says:

    Absent strong labor unions @Maus Merryjest wins. There’s nothing new under the sun.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. Tony W says:

    These are always the most fun controversies – the ones that pit elements of a fragile conservative coalition against one another. The self-righteous Christians who want to preserve the day for “god” are in conflict with their pure capitalistic brethren screaming “freedom”.

    Pass the popcorn!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  24. michael reynolds says:

    My first job was at Toys R Us. I worked every day, every shift they’d give me, including Thanksgiving.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. Ben says:

    @Mikey:

    Of course any employee is free to walk out, but they also have to deal with the fact they are responsible to others and the consequences of losing their income may be damaging to those others.

    You seem to be confusing “freedom” with “total lack of responsibility.”

    You’re being deliberately obtuse about the dire nature of the consequences to workers and relative lack of consequences facing the employer. This leads to an extremely unequal bargaining position between employers and workers, which effectively short circuits the “free market”. Workers simply can’t leave because there just aren’t any other jobs. It comes down to a “choice” just doing whatever they want, no matter how exploitative, or accepting financial ruin and losing your home, everything in it, and throwing your family out on the street. At a certain point, the consequences of a choice become so dire, that it turns the idea of choice into an illusion.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  26. Mikey says:

    @Ben: You could always start your own business.

    See, this is where I part company with my liberal friends, even though I’m pretty liberal myself. I understand there’s a power dynamic between employer and employee, but I don’t accept that it eliminates freedom or means the free market is a myth. You are free to do with your time whatever you want, but you must also accept the responsibilities your choices incur. You are free to take any job for which your skills and experience suits you, but you must also accept the legitimate duties that come with that job, even if it means working on Thanksgiving.

    We know this stuff going in, don’t we? I mean, anyone who accepts a position in retail shouldn’t be surprised when they have to work their ass off come Christmastime.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @Ben: Based on some of the commentary here, it looks like at least some people would be perfectly happy with a boss who suddenly decided that they had to work 16 hour days.

    It looks like none of these people heard of the term “unequal bargaining position.”

    (I really do wish that enough “unskilled workers” would pull together to carry off a one-day strike, all together. All mothers, caretakers, bedpan-carriers, garbagemen, janitors, waitresses and waiters–everyone would walk off the job for one day. Leave the kids squalling in the playpen, the demented grandmother in her chair, the bedpans unemptied, the garbage uncollected. Maybe then the rest of society that looks down on unskilled workers and chastises them for “not training themselves better” would appreciate their work a bit more.)

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  28. grumpy realist says:

    @Maus Merryjest: What about the activities that are essential but we consider to be unskilled? Nursing home aides, who take care of your senile grandmother? Or mothers, who raise children? I guess by your logic they shouldn’t be paid that much and should be continually abused and hounded until they go out and train themselves to be brain surgeons.

    As the saying goes–whose labor are you going to miss earlier if they go on strike–your congresscritter or your garbageman?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  29. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Based on some of the commentary here, it looks like at least some people would be perfectly happy with a boss who suddenly decided that they had to work 16 hour days.

    I sometimes do have to work 16-hour days in my job. But I knew that could happen when I took it. And I’m a salaried guy, so no time-and-a-half for me (believe me, back when I did get overtime pay, I sought out every 16-hour day I could get).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. beth says:

    Even if everyone working a crappy minimum wage job went out and got themselves a PHD and a three figure salary, we would still need people to take care of Grandma, ring up your groceries, clean your offices and cook your fast food. Can we at least honor the fact that they’re working hard and pay them a living wage and treat them with some respect? Not everyone is going to wind up on top – must we kick the ones who are down too in order to make us feel good? My daughter has to work on Thanksgiving – it would be nice if her employer paid her a little extra and just said thank you.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  31. al-Ameda says:

    America – despite all protestations to the contrary – is hooked on shopping, on buying and selling. Complaining about retail on Christmas or Thanksgiving is nearly as much a tradition as the holiday itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: Yeah–it’s also quite a difference if you’re pulling down $160K for that as opposed to McJob wages.

    I never thought I’d see the day when I’d look fondly at Victorian work habits.

    (I had my experience of 16-hr work days, 7 days a week. For six months. It then took me another several months for my health to come back.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  33. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I know a lady who works at Wal-Mart. They’re offering carrots for their employees — not only are they providing free food for all who work on Thanksgiving, but they all get a voucher for 25% off one single transaction (not one item, one entire sale). She heard about that and volunteered for the shift. She’s already planning on dropping a couple of hundred dollars when she redeems that voucher.

    I don’t know if there are any sticks involved, but there are carrots.

    Just because some companies are big doesn’t mean that they’re always stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  34. LightsOut says:

    @Mikey:

    You have somewhat of a point, but you really are being obtuse. Your definition of freedom is simply being able to make a choice, no matter what the options are. But the idea of true freedom is very closely tied to the variety of viable options available.

    By your same logic, you could make the argument that slaves were free to run away, but they would just have to be ready to deal with the consequences. And people are free to murder one another, as long as they understand what will happen as a result. When you define freedom in such a way, it loses its meaning.

    Freedom is best understood as lying on a spectrum rather than being a binary condition. And the concern in this situation is that some of these employees are in a position in which their freedom, while it does exist, is severely limited.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  35. Ryan says:

    @Maus Merryjest:
    Trust me, had a financial firm been willing to pick me up at 16, or as a freshmen in college, I would’ve jumped at the opportunity. Rather unfortunately, at least when I was that age, most companies outside of retail and food service had no interest in students. :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. Bruce Henry says:

    @beth: I love that comment, beth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  37. pylon says:

    Wasn’t Thanksgiving well over a month ago anyway?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. wr says:

    @beth: “Not everyone is going to wind up on top – must we kick the ones who are down too in order to make us feel good? ”

    Yes, we do. Because that’s what makes us Free!

    Sincerely,

    The Libertarian Party

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  39. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “I know a lady who works at Wal-Mart”

    You’ve said some pretty outrageous things in your time here, but the notion that you’ve actually talked to a woman is so far beyond unbelievable we’ll all be laughing through the holidays.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  40. Mikey says:

    @LightsOut:

    By your same logic, you could make the argument that slaves were free to run away, but they would just have to be ready to deal with the consequences. And people are free to murder one another, as long as they understand what will happen as a result. When you define freedom in such a way, it loses its meaning.

    That’s a complete strawman and distortion of my position. Slaves were hunted down and beaten and killed. Murder is, well, murder. Last I checked, walking off one’s job resulted in neither, unless one works for Tony Soprano.

    “Freedom” is not definable as “every conceivable outcome of my choices redounds to my benefit.” One is still free even if one’s options are “crappy” and “crappier.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  41. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Yeah–it’s also quite a difference if you’re pulling down $160K for that as opposed to McJob wages.

    Don’t I wish. Although I’m thankful it’s closer to the upper end than to McJob.

    (I had my experience of 16-hr work days, 7 days a week. For six months. It then took me another several months for my health to come back.)

    BTDT, when I was in the Air Force. One stretch was 36 hours, then I was fool enough to drive home. Fortunately it was 5:00 AM on a Sunday and nobody was traveling through the red light I realized I’d run straight through about a mile after I did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  42. Mikey says:

    @LightsOut: Also, my statements haven’t been in the context of “freedom” in general, but of a “free market” and whether or not a worker is free to leave his/her job even if doing so would mean they and those close to them would suffer from the loss of income. I think it’s intellectually lazy to define the free market so that the worker is only “free” if every possible outcome of their choice is beneficial to them.

    A free market is free to the extent the state doesn’t get into the employer/employee relationship. I don’t support an entirely free market–there are quite a few things I do support, like mandatory paid vacation time and laws prohibiting discrimination, that are pretty antithetical to the free market.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. Neil Hudelson says:

    Doug,

    I’m amazed about how quickly you change your tune so long as the subject at hand doesn’t affect you.

    Didn’t you just write an entire post about how horrible it that people will be able to use their phones on planes?

    Let’s rewrite that byline: “it may not be “fun” that people can use their phones on a plane, but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  44. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Last time I checked, the majority of cops, firefighters, medical professionals also get some sort of comp time or offset for working Christmas or Thanksgiving. Even when I worked in a data center that promised 24/7 uptime, if you volunteered to work a holiday, you would get a day added to your paid time off pool.

    If people *want* to pick up extra shifts, I have no problem with that. However, coercing people to work on a national holiday is a dick move. People who work retail get shafted in so many ways, however, one of the unwritten rules for past few decades has been that there are two days you get off each year, Thanksgiving and Christmas. And now not even that tiny sliver of good will remains.

    I strongly dislike Chik fil A for many reasons, but I will give them this – they treat their (hetero) employees like humans with lives. Closed Sundays, closed Thanksgiving, closed Christmas. Period. No Chik fil A employee will end up having to work 80+ hours over the course of 10 straight days, something that used to happen to me all the time when I did hourly work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  45. rudderpedals says:

    @Mikey:
    Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  46. Just Me says:

    I don’t shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.

    I wouldn’t mind stores opening if employees are 100% volunteers.

    My husband used to work retail and one huge issue was that they didn’t allow anyone to ask for vacation over Thanksgiving (everyone had to be available for Black Friday even if they ended up not being scheduled). It was difficult for us because we travel to his family for Thanksgiving.

    Personally I don’t view shopping on Thnksgiving as a major necessity and think it is a shame some people have to work. Police, fire, medical care are essential services-a sale at Walmart is not.

    Personally I would and almost do all of my shopping online-and I like it that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  47. An Interested Party says:

    Also worth noting all those people affiliated with the NFL who will be working tomorrow.

    Oh yes, it’s the same exact thing being an athlete/entertainer making millions of dollars per year as it is being a wage slave making somewhere around 7-10 bucks an hour…

    I’m amazed about how quickly you change your tune so long as the subject at hand doesn’t affect you.

    What do you expect from a libertarian…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  48. wr says:

    @An Interested Party: “Oh yes, it’s the same exact thing being an athlete/entertainer making millions of dollars per year as it is being a wage slave making somewhere around 7-10 bucks an hour…”

    To be fair, there are a lot of people “affiliated” with the NFL who aren’t athlete/entertainers — there are a lot more people taking tickets, pulling beer, selling hot dogs, cleaning bathrooms and working the booth in the parking lot than there are players…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  49. Barry says:

    @Ben: Agreed, and Matt’s doing his usual Harwh0ring again. I’m sure that many employees enjoy working on Thanksgiving, maybe as much as 10% of them. The rest suck it up or get fired.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  50. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Yea there were times it sucked when it screwed with family dinner and such, but that was life. (It’s also worth noting that the hourly pay rate for working holidays like that was double time and a half so it all resulted in a nice big paycheck at the end of it all) ”

    First, a lot of people got killed in various wars, and that’s just life, but that’s not an excuse. Second, and really, really importantly, that was back in the day when people got extra pay for the work. Today people get straight time.

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  51. Barry says:

    @Maus Merryjest: Gawd spare us from Libertoonians.

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  52. An Interested Party says:

    @Wr: True enough…one would hope that they are being properly compensated for working during the holiday, although they probably aren’t…

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  53. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Just Me: I wouldn’t mind stores opening if employees are 100% volunteers.

    Most retailers ask for volunteers first. That’s just common sense. But if they can’t get enough staff, then on come the assigned shifts.

    Years ago, I had an employer that said that everyone would have to work at least one of the “big four” holidays in a year — Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. I’d volunteer for the first two (time and a half plus holiday pay — work 8 hours, get paid for 20!), then when the other two rolled around, I’d cheerfully point out that I’d already worked two holidays and get out of Christmas and New Year’s Day.

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  54. bill says:

    the sun comes up, then it goes down- just another day for a lot pf people. i don’t see much chatter about all the places that are always open on tg ( gas stations/quickie marts, bars/restaurants, hospitals/healthcare facilities, hotels,etc….)

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  55. JKB says:

    I see a lot a lamentations over retail employees but none for the convenience store clerks, airline employees, etc. who have to work just because people won’t stay home. Or the extra police and emergency workers required for the non-essential parades. Not to mention to cover the domestic disputes that arise from those old family wounds opened up or provoked by following Obama’s bidding and harassing your uncle over Obamacare.

    Jobs suck. The pay is inducement for you to give a bit of your time and effort to the employer’s enterprise. The trick is to work from day one to reduce your dependence upon it so you have options, even if you never exercise them. Build a bit of savings, improve your skills, keep an eye out for a better job. But instead, people trap themselves by making it harder to leave by going into debt, having kids, buying a house, etc without first creating a buffer. Or giving the expense much thought or developing a plan to retire the debt or get the kids out of the house and able to support themselves. And so, they have reduced their freedom but by their own choices and actions.

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  56. Rafer Janders says:

    The conservative War On Thanksgiving continues, I see.

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  57. Yolo Contendere says:

    @Mikey: “I’m not saying’ you HAVE to buy this fire insurance from my boss. It’s a free market, after all. I’m just sayin’ you have a nice business here, and it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

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  58. James Pearce says:

    @Maus Merryjest:

    Well, honestly, what do you expect if you have no skills that make you a worthwhile worker outside of basically being a body to use?

    Um, nice try.

    The Walmart by my house has this attitude. It’s also why it’s one of the nation’s largest shoplifting targets. Truth is, running a successful retail operation requires some skills. Don’t believe me? Stock your store with unskilled, interchangeable “warm bodies” you got on the cheap and then start counting your losses.

    That said, I’m not only working Thanksgiving, but also the Day After Thanksgiving. In those two days, I will be clocking 20 hours at double time and a half, and at my above-average salary, that’s quite the windfall. I’m not doing it for the money though. I’m doing it because it’s my duty.

    Which is the same reason why cops, airline employees, chemical plant workers, and many others also work the holidays. It’s not about the money. It’s about the buy-in. It’s about professionalism. It’s about choosing to serve a need that does not end just because it’s a holiday.

    It’s in the interest of retailers to seek that same kind of buy-in, but in order to do so, they need to change their way of thinking. Rather than seeing labor as a cost that must be cut to the lowest possible point, they could see labor as a significant driver of revenue and act accordingly.

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  59. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Pearce: I’m not holding my breath waiting for this to happen. And congratulations on having a job that pays extra for working holidays–it makes the “i’m doing this because I a professional” line easier to say. Would you be willing to do it on salary just because you are a “professional?”

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  60. James Pearce says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    I’m not holding my breath waiting for this to happen.

    Well, you shouldn’t hold your breath, that’s for sure.

    But you should take comfort from the fact that Walmart’s reputation and the way they run their business leaves them susceptible to competitive pressures. Walmart may seem like a juggernaut now, but sooner or later, an upstart will rise to challenge them. At that point, Walmart will either have to change or die. That’s not a bad thing.

    it makes the “i’m doing this because I a professional” line easier to say. Would you be willing to do it on salary just because you are a “professional?”

    Easier to say? Oh, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t mind having the day off. But I work a “mission critical” 24/7 type job and I’m well compensated for it. A side effect of that is that I feel a sense of responsibility.

    Would I feel that same sense of responsibility if I was paid less? Probably not. Would a CEO?

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  61. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m not sure why that situation, which was inevitable given the nature of how the factory operated, is any different from retail work.

    Shall we start with the obvious???? Double time and a half???? Most of the people working retail on these days will get minimum wage. Straight time. Period.

    Wake up and smell the roaches Doug.

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  62. Ben Wolf says:

    @JKB: The system constrains individual choice and action. Pretending it does not is willful ignorance.

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  63. Ben Wolf says:

    @Mikey:

    You could always start your own business.

    No, you can’t always start your own business. Doing so requires access to capital and sufficient demand for the product, both of which are out of the hands of individuals, businessmen and tycoons.

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  64. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Ben Wolf: No, you can’t always start your own business. Doing so requires access to capital and sufficient demand for the product, both of which are out of the hands of individuals, businessmen and tycoons.

    Oh, please. “Access to capital?” Save up your money. Make sacrifices, pass on other things to get the capital you need. And a lot of lenders will be more generous if you are putting up a good chunk of your own money as well.

    “Sufficient demand for the product?” First up, make it “product or service.” Next, Capitalism 101: find or create that demand before you start. Anyone who starts a buggywhip plant or a carburetor repair shop will be out of business in short order. On the other hand, companies like Apple create the demand they need — who the hell knew they needed an iPod, iPhone, or iPad before Apple said they had them for sale? At absurdly high prices, but they can barely keep up with demand.

    What scares so many people (myself included) is that there is no guarantee of success. In fact, there’s a guarantee that most will fail. I know a guy who was laid off from his company several years ago. So he started a business. It failed. He started a second one. It failed, too. And a third. It’s gone. However, his current business (at least his fourth, but I might have missed a couple) is booming. He’s got ads all over the local TV and radio.

    This guy lost his job and failed at least three times, but didn’t give up. And now he’s succeeding.

    It can be done. But not everyone can do it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  65. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    It can be done. But not everyone can do it.

    I’m glad that you can concede that.

    Next you can concede that in most cases, “You can get a better-paying job” is better advice than “You can start your own business.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  66. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce: Next you can concede that in most cases, “You can get a better-paying job” is better advice than “You can start your own business.”

    And I’d hardly call that a “concession.” It’s an acknowledgement.

    I’d amend that to “you can get a better job.” Pay isn’t the only factor.

    But the key element remains: if you want things better for yourself, then you need to take the initiative.

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  67. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce: It’s certainly safer advice. Owning one’s own business can be fantastic, but it’s a gigantic amount of pressure a lot of the time. My dad was a small business owner for 40 years and I have no desire whatsoever to follow suit.

    Although I suppose if the market weren’t so soft for telecommunications and data equipment…but then I’d be in partnership with my current boss, so not exactly the same as a sole proprietorship.

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  68. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “But the key element remains: if you want things better for yourself, then you need to take the initiative.”

    Whole-hearted agreement. But this leaves us with a dillemma.

    If all the people who “take the initiative” left Walmart and got better jobs, who’s going to man the checkstands? Just the mouth-breathers? Surely, “taking the initiative” would be an attractive quality for a Walmart employee. With such an unrewarding end (a McJob with a Thanksgiving shift), how do they expect to “attract” that initiative-taking person?

    Truth is, Walmart can be much better. Since the one closest to me is such a disaster ($1.5 million in losses to theft last year!) I have found that the one by work isn’t bad and the one out by the airport is even better. I haven’t given up on the company yet. Indeed, I wish there was a way I could actually pay them for better service. That 15 minute wait for the guy to unlock the video game counter? I’d pay money not to endure that.

    And that’s what these crappy store managers at Walmart don’t seem to understand. People are waiting to give them their money. Are they man enough to take it?

    @Mikey:

    Owning one’s own business can be fantastic, but it’s a gigantic amount of pressure a lot of the time.

    And lucrative too.

    My Uncle Larry (real name) ran a very successful construction company and handed it off to my cousins. All three brothers are wealthy now, and the fourth one cashed in his share to buy a recording studio.

    Inspired by this, my Dad tormented me with all his little businesses throughout my childhood. We mowed lawns. We cleaned offices at night. Third grade and I’m cleaning offices at night. His wife ran a daycare business in our house. I mean, it was all kinds of pressure.

    He had the same cheap-ass mentality as the “warm body” crew. Me and my brothers didn’t get paid squat. And all of those businesses failed.

    My cousins, rolling in the dough. My brothers, we all took better jobs.

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  69. wr says:

    @JKB: Wow, that is possibly the bleakest, ugliest view of life I’ve seen. We all work at jobs we hate, and we could get free but then we make a mistake and burden ourselves with spouses and children that force us to keep earning.

    No wonder you’re such a hateful, miserable man. The only good you find in life is “freedom,” which apparently means a complete lack of connection to family, friends, property, or any of the things most people work to achieve. It’s the “freedom” of the hobo, who can catch a boxcar wherever he wants whenever he wants, and can die in a ditch without anyone giving a damn.

    Some of us here — and I’m happy to include myself in their ranks — work at careers we love, doing work we are good at, we enjoy, and that we consider as a way of making other people’s lives better.

    But it never even occurs to you that this is a possibility, just as you can’t see having children as anything other than a theft of your freedom.

    If I thought like you, I’d oppose Obamacare, too. Because who the hell would want to live a second longer than necessary?

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  70. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: And what’s the number one thing stopping so many Americans from starting their own business?

    Health insurance.

    Or, rather, the fact that as long as they keep working for someone else, they can get health insurance. If they go out on their own, they can’t. And while there are many intrepid would-be intrepeneurs willing to take that chance, there are far fewer who are willing to gamble with the llives and health of their family.

    Which is one reason why the ACA is so important.

    And yet, dopes like Jenos, who claim to support the idea of starting one’s own business, think this is a terrible idea. Reducing a bit of the risk so that more people can attempt the ladder is a crime against the market. When Nancy Pelosi dared to suggest that with affordable care available on an individual basis more Americans would be free to pursue their dreams, whether of starting a business or becoming artists, the professional Jenos’ of the world jeered that our tax payers would go to failed performance artists.

    Apparently the first requirement for a right winger is to refuse to think through the consequences of your own beliefs.

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  71. Rafer Janders says:

    It’s clear from the conservative commenters here that there is, indeed, a War on Thanksgiving being waged by the right-wing and their Big Business and libertarian allies. They want to destroy Thanksgiving.

    So I have to ask: if they hate Thanksgiving, that most American of all holidays, so much, doesn’t it also necessarily mean that they hate America? Isn’t their contempt for Thanksgiving, a day to gather with one’s friends, family and neighbors, merely a repressed sign of their greater contempt for friendship, family, community and the entire American way of life?

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  72. anjin-san says:

    The manager of an Indiana Pizza Hut has been offered his job back after claiming he was fired for refusing to open the restaurant on Thanksgiving.

    Tony Rohr, who worked his way up from cook to manager at the restaurant, in Elkhart, Ind., over 10 years, said the company that owns the store dictated it be open for the holiday, and he refused.

    “I said, ‘Why can’t we be the company that stands up and says we care about our employees and they can have the day off,?'” Rohr told WSBT 22. “Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that they’re closed in the whole year and they’re the only two days that those people are guaranteed to have off to spend with their families.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/11/28/pizza-hut-manager-fired-after-refusing-to-open-chain-on-thanksgiving/

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  73. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    Oh, please. “Access to capital?” Save up your money. Make sacrifices, pass on other things to get the capital you need.

    I do a little consulting for a VC outfit.This comment does not reach the level of “Capitalism 101″ – more like the Sunday funnies. Even for someone who successfully bootstraps a viable business into existence using capital they managed to save, there are almost always downstream cash flow issues once the business starts to grow that often cannot be successfully addressed via traditional funding sources. At this point, lack of access to capital can sink a growing business that has a solid model.

    What do you do when your business is growing at a good pace 18 months in, but you need to expand manufacturing, yet lack the capital to do so? The banks turn you down because your business does not have a long enough track record. Your personal savings were exhausted by start up costs. Cutting back to basic cable at home is probably not going to get the job done.

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  74. Mikey says:

    @anjin-san: When my dad opened his business (a retail business) in 1982, he and a friend were the only “employees” and nobody got paid. Savings got pretty close to running out and the $200/day the store grossed wasn’t going to get it done…LOL…fortunately, he held it together long enough to start breaking even and finally turn a profit. The business is still running today, with my brother taking over as owner after Dad got sick.

    But the pressure had to be incredibly intense, with a wife, and ex-wife, and five kids to support.

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  75. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @anjin-san: Go on Shark Tank!

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  76. anjin-san says:

    who the hell knew they needed an iPod, iPhone, or iPad before Apple said they had them for sale?

    Yea, why can’t that greeter at WalMart simply will themselves into becoming a transformational genius like Steve Jobs with vast resources at their disposal?

    It must be some sort of lack of character issue.

    Really dude, think before you type. Harland Sanders would be a good example of the point you are trying to make. A mature Steve Jobs at the height of his powers? Not so much.

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  77. anjin-san says:

    @ Mikey

    My dad ran a successful law practice for decades, but I know of at least three times he had his back all the way against the wall. Because he had a long track record of success and was personally in demand with a broad client base, he was able to go to the bank, get a loan to tide the business over and work his way out of the hole. All this while raising a family.

    Without access to capital, he might have lost everything, several times over. Eventually the pressure of running his own practice got to him and he took a position as a corporate general counsel the last decade of his career.

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  78. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: You think Apple created demand. So it somehow redistributed national income in such a way that consumers could signal it? Did Apple get hold of printing press and summon forth dollars into being? How are the unemployed signaling their demand for iPads, telepathy?

    Let’s take a brief look at how things work in the real world.

    A bright young lady comes up with a product (both goods and services are products, Jenos) she hopes will fulfill desires among a sufficient number of people to realize a profit. She assesses the quantity she hopes to sell and then determines the number of workers she will need to produce that quantity, which can be represented by the equation Y=αN (where Y is her target output, α is average productivity and N is the number of workers), called the Employment Output Function.

    She needs to pay wages, obtain capital equipment and overcome a number of other barriers to entry before she can produce a single unit. Working from Jenos comment she has three choices as a Wal-mart employee: 1) save money by digging cat food out of the store dumpster for her meals, 2) find an investor or 3) obtain a loan without collateral. None of these are likely to occur, but let us assume she somehow has access to $100,000 in revolving credit (meaning she puts it on her credit card). She buys the equipment and hires the workers who then hit the desired level of output, creating inventory for sale.

    Unfortunately, near the end of this process the economy falls into recession and deflation, and our businesswoman cannot sell all of her inventory at the original price. Reducing that price might enable her to liquidate the inventory, but as her debt is inelastic she will find herself realizing lower profits while her liabilities remain unchanged. It’s even possible she will realize no profit at all or be forced to endure a loss; not through any fault of her own but due to macroeconomic constraints over which she has no control. Maybe she can increase sales with heavy advertising, but where will the money come from to pay for it?

    So while it’s nice to engage in fantasies about how businesses succeed based on sheer Galtian will and personal frugality, it just ain’t so.

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  79. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Mikey: While not equal to slavery. Poverty isn’t for pussies..that’s for certain. While you live close to the edge you’ll put up with a WHOLE lot more to keep from taking that final step down to skid row.

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  80. Tony W says:

    @Pharoah Narim: And poverty is very expensive too…

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  81. Richard says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Thant not true,. Most CEO put in more that 40 hours a day and are on call 24 hours a day to put out any fires like mainstream reporting a riot at the store or a big shipment is missing.

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  82. dave bowen says:

    Conservatives,with their”traditional values” mantra should be outraged about this. Greedy retailers have ruined every one of our once sacred holidays by turning them into gigantic fund raisers for themselves. We will not even mention the greedy selfish people who patronize stores on those days,who obviously have NO LIFE! Kids get days off from school.\,and I bet they do not even know why. That is what America has become. Nothing has value unless there is a dollar sign attatched to it. As an American I am disgusted and angry. As a veteran I am insulted!

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