So, you think that retailers being open on Thanksgiving is a good idea. Oh, and that retail workers should be grateful for the chance to earn extra money, because hey, aren’t they making time and a half, and shouldn’t they actually be thanking their employers and the customers for giving them such a great opportunity?
First off, high five on perpetuating the notion that retail workers are a lower class of humans who couldn’t possibly appreciate having time to spend holidays with their families. We all really appreciate that whole perspective not having died out yet. It’s a struggle for many people working in retail to feed their families, absolutely. Are there people who are grateful for the extra hours and money in their paycheck that come from working on a holiday? No question. But should retail employees be grateful that their stores are open on Thanksgiving and that they have to work? Nope.
Speaking as a lifelong retail worker: No, the majority of retail employees are not happy to have to work on Thanksgiving. First off, not all states require time and a half pay for working on holidays. A number of retailers are doing so to offset the bad publicity for being open on Thanksgiving, but holiday pay for retail varies from state to state, so in a lot of places, the employees aren’t being paid extra.
Second, if you’re working in big box or discount retail, you may not have a choice if you work or not. So while, yeah, one employee might appreciate the extra hours, there are a whole bunch who are put on the schedule and can’t opt out of working. You show up or you lose your job. Again, some retailers make the shift optional to save face with consumers, but that’s very much the exception, not the norm.
As a retail worker, I’ve always had the certainty that I’d have three definite days off a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. I don’t celebrate two of those, but I’m able to plan on the fact that stores are closed and I won’t be working. As far as Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve never run into the situation where I haven’t had to work extra hours on the days after Thanksgiving or the days leading up to Christmas, so there’s really no loss of income when stores are closed that day.
One last thing: Black Friday is a sham. It’s a big old pile of bullshit, invented by discount retailers and ad agencies and perpetuated by the media’s unyielding insistence on making it a Huge Goddamn Deal. The loss leader items sell out within minutes, the sales aren’t that great, and it can be an actual dangerous environment, both for shoppers and for workers. It’s not the biggest shopping day of the year. It’s consistently the fourth or fifth, beat out by the Saturday before Christmas and the week leading up to Christmas Eve. It’s really only been over the last decade or so that it’s turned into a big thing, and it’s ridiculous and media-generated.
So don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re providing some kind of favor born out of noblesse oblige toward the poor, sub-human retail workers who would rather be forced into scrambling for your dimes and the chance to be treated like crap for an extra day a year that many would rather be spending elsewhere, even if it’s at home, alone, reading a book. It’s not a good thing. It’s a creeping, insidious trend, and it needs to stop.
Oh, and as you head out to the stores this holiday season (any time after Thanksgiving, thank you very much), keep in mind that retail employees are people, too.