Hell is for Retail Employees: Open on Thanksgiving Edition

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.

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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

19 thoughts on “Hell is for Retail Employees: Open on Thanksgiving Edition”

  1. It probably says something about the state of retail that the bar is set so low that I am elated to not have to work a split on Thanksgiving/Black Friday. The last couple years, it’s been 8pm-6 or 7 am, and then come back 5pm- close. It was so brutal and would mess up my sleep for a week. This year, I have one 4am-2pm shift. I show up, I run the store for 9 hours, I go the fuck home for a nap and go about my day.

          1. One of the reasons I’m okay with him being an ex. (She also insisted that he go with her Christmas Day to look at cars at a dealership, just to see what they had. Despite that they were closed. I begged off because I “had a headache”. And she doesn’t believe in quiet productivity — no spending an afternoon reading or knitting in HER house.)

            And, right? I’d only go out for absolute necessities, like we-don’t-even-have-tissues toilet paper or if the devious coffee-absorbing monster comes in the night and removes all coffee from the house. Anything else can be improvised.

  2. I work this Thanksgiving from 230 to 1030. I volunteered to work it because I get Christmas day off if I work Thanksgiving. Everyone has to work one of the two holidays. I am not looking forward to closing when no one is around. I guess my employees and I can have our own party.

  3. I don’t shop on holidays, even the “minor” ones. I keep hoping that if I don’t go into the store, they won’t make enough money to be open and they’ll treat their employees like real human beings sometime. Even if I just need to run in for a gallon of milk or something, I wait for the next day.

  4. I really think that we can build better people if EVERYONE would work in retail for a year. Heck, six months. Replace the mandatory army time with it. Maybe that way people will realize how complete bonkers people can be against/around retail workers.

    I’m lucky I haven’t had very bad experiences and here it’s (pretty much?) law to get extra salary on Sun- and holidays. But still.. customers were one of the reasons that I became a mail woman as quickly as possible.

    1. This is my theory on personal development, too! If everybody were required to work retail for a year, the world would be a nicer place. Either there’d be fewer people in it, or they’d all be a bit more understanding and patient. I also strongly advocate for allowing all retail employees one day a year to be safely, unfiltered-ly drunk at work.

  5. As a former retail workers, my thoughts are with all of you. I knew certain stores were going to be open Thanksgiving, but I was really shocked when I saw the holiday hours listed at one of the local Starbucks and saw that they’re going to be open Thanksgiving and Christmas. So disappointed.

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