Tis the Season

Well, it is the season for many things, but right now it seems it is the season for complaints regarding Christmas shopping and the fact that many stores now open on Thanksgiving. Full disclosure, I do not go shopping at “Black Friday” sales, and I have no plans to shop on Thursday either, but that is a family choice, others may have reasons to make other choices.

I know the pattern of stores opening earlier and earlier, and now into the evening of Thanksgiving, makes many uncomfortable or unhappy. I would like to see an argument made that does not rely on “that’s not the way it used to be” types of rationales. The past was not all Norman Rockwell paintings and I am not buying it in this case at all. If people choose to go shopping at 4am or 7pm who am I to say they should be denied such an option.

Let’s look at the alternative argument: “people shouldn’t have to work on Thanksgiving.” Sorry, not buying this one either. When I was a kid there were always stores open on Thanksgiving. Grocery stores and liquor stores were two common ones. Walgreen’s was always open well into the evening on holidays. I know many families that had a tradition of going to see a movie on Thanksgiving, and what do you know, the theaters were open too. Police and firemen, as well as paramedics, worked holidays too. I do understand that not all workers will be happy to work on these days but they should find another job then.

What of those who want to work on this day? What if it is extra money in the family bank account that means a nicer Christmas? Or what if they get the full Christmas day because they worked on Thanksgiving. Should we deny people an ability to work on a day their employer is willing to open and force them to have the Norman Rockwell experience? I don’t think so.

What of the retailers. Inevitably called insensitive, greedy, uncaring, and probably many other things? Their behavior is quite simple: competition. The retailers assume consumers have a fixed amount to spend during the gift giving season. My guess is that this is roughly accurate, and while not necessarily the case that you have an exact amount there are certainly finite budgetary resources for most. As soon as opening times started moving earlier it was just a matter of time before the opening was on Friday. The issue the retailer has is this: if there is a finite amount of money available to spend, and my competitor is open earlier they are likely to get more of the funds. The competitive game becomes leapfrog with one firm jumping over the other with opening time until you probably get to a 4pm or 5pm opening time. That is, unless retailers just decide to open for the whole day. I think the public outcry against this would likely be too high for the public relations department at most retailers and therefore will not happen right now.

Circumstances and situations are what you make of them. Sometimes it needs to be about the quality of the time or experience, not the quantity. A nice day together and then somebody is off to work is better than no time together at all.

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