By Kerry Daley:
I worked in retail department store for six years. A little longer if we add up the random months I worked for a local pizza shop and tent/party company. I started as a cashier for a year at this particular retailer, then moved to the sales floor when I couldn't deal with the rude, demanding, and inconsiderate customers complaining and yelling at me for things I have absolutely no control over, like company policies or how the computer system works. Not that customers on the floor were much better.
But I digress.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, poor retail workers are forced into the chaotic mayhem of early morning doorbuster sales on the day after Thanksgiving, the dreaded Black Friday. My first year working Black Friday, the company I worked for opened at 5 a.m., requiring employees to arrive at 4:30 a.m. The second year and every year following since I left the company, the opening time changed to 4 a.m., requiring employees to now arrive an hour earlier than the year prior, at 3:30 a.m. instead. Even at this ridiculous hour, customers were still lined up at the front door, in the dark, inching closer to the glass every minute to be the first ones inside and grab their must-have items while the rest of America was sleeping soundlessly and peacefully, without a care to actually be awake. Seriously, roosters aren't even crowing yet.
Being given a 4 a.m. shift on Black Friday almost always lasted 9 hours and often more, also cutting into my holiday time with my family on Thanksgiving. If I had to arrive at 3:30 a.m. and work until 1 p.m. or later, I definitely needed to sleep and rest for the anarchy that would ensue for the entirety of my shift. Which meant that to gain a full 8 hours of sleep to rest up and prepare to rise at 3 a.m. to arrive at 3:30, I would need to fall asleep by 7 p.m., slashing time with my family after Thanksgiving dinner, even missing the night football games that we all watch together. It never worked that way, as I could never actually fall asleep when I needed to, with all the holiday fun occurring downstairs. After a couple years of this insanity, I refused to work anything but a closing shift, when everything had calmed down and departments were easier to clean and organize, also allowing me a normal sleeping pattern and holiday time with my family.
Last year in 2010 is when Black Friday began to creep into Thursday, when stores like Walmart, Old Navy, and GameStop opened its doors at midnight, just as Thanksgiving Day ended. Sears stores were even open Thanksgiving Day, from 7 a.m. to noon.
"David," a former Sears Hardware employee in New York, recalled the Thanksgiving Day opening. "We had no customers at all. I was wondering why a hardware store would be open on Thanksgiving."
This year, Macy's also decided to take the midnight plunge. However, Macy's isn't the only store opening its doors to shoppers at midnight on Black Friday. It seems their decision has caused an avalanche of followers. Other major stores have decided to ruin Thanksgiving for thousands of their employees as well.
Lowe's, Gap, Target, Kohl's, and Best Buy have also joined in the midnight Black Friday madness, competing with Macy's to coax shoppers into their stores instead, four hours earlier than last year for Target and Kohl's, and the earliest in Kohl's history. Kohl's will also be open for a full 24 hours - from midnight Black Friday to midnight Saturday morning.
And even crazier still, while Walmart opened its doors at midnight last year, they announced that instead they will open at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night - two hours earlier. And just when we thought the time opening wars would end, Toys "R" Us turned a competitive streak into absurdity when they announced their opening time at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night.
CVS Pharmacies will also be open on Thanksgiving Day, and store times vary by location.
A completely ridiculous display of retail worker injustice decided by Michael's stores shows an ad announcing 6 a.m. Black Friday opening time - and a Thanksgiving Day opening of 4 p.m. EST. Ad here.
Sears stores claims they will not open on Thanksgiving night to allow their employees to spend the holiday with family, yet they open at 4 a.m. Black Friday, and their subsidiary, K-Mart still opens at midnight, giving employees little time with family as they must attempt to sleep early in the day to rise in the middle of the night for holiday doorbuster sales.
An employee of Target in Omaha, Nebraska, Anthony Hardwick, 29, has started a petition online at Change.org, asking citizens to join him in urging Target retail stores to open instead at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. Hardwick has stated that he must hit the sack at 2 or 3 in the afternoon to prepare for a midnight Black Friday opening - completely missing his family Thanksgiving festivities. The petition has circulated all over the internet, and has been covered by many news stations. At the time of this article, the petition had already reached 107,167 signatures - nearly 20,000 gained overnight from Tuesday, November 15, to Wednesday, November 16 - Tell Target To Save Thanksgiving.
Hardwick's petition has sparked another retail employee to begin his own campaign against his company's Black Friday Time Opening War - Best Buy. He also asks Best Buy to open their stores at 5 a.m. Black Friday, instead of midnight. Push Back the Opening of Best Buy Retail Stores on Black Friday to 5am
Of course midnight for Black Friday is late Thanksgiving Day. Most stores require their employees to arrive at the store at least 30 minutes, some even a full hour, before opening to prepare the store and themselves for the rush. The shopping public couldn't care less about that - their Thanksgivings will be awesome! They'll get to stay at home with their families and finish their holidays meals while thousands of retail slaves will be forced to sleep through it to avoid staying awake for 24 hours or longer - just to prepare for their Thanksgiving night to Black Friday morning work shift, which often is much longer than 8 hours.
Thanksgiving, the day of thanks, to remember all we are grateful for and blessed with in our lives. Shall we be thanking retailers instead? Thank you so much greedy corporate retailers! Thanks so much for ruining Thanksgiving for thousands of people who work in retail!
What is happening with the desperation of these stores? Where will this trend lead? Every year stores have been opening earlier following moves by competitors. Have we reached a Black Friday opening ceiling? Or is this the beginning of chipping away at what's left of Thanksgiving? Chipping away at what's left of a holiday that has been virtually stolen from people who work in retail because of corporate greed and desperation to out-manuever each other and get sales as fast as possible. Every year their Time Opening becomes earlier and earlier, just to beat the sales of the next retailer.
Why not just be open all day Thanksgiving? More store hours open equals more customers and more store profit, right? Who cares about all these poor workers who will completely miss this holiday at home with their families, enjoying a delicious, carefully crafted Thanksgiving meal of turkey, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, casseroles, cornbread, and pie... oh, the pies!
It seems corporate staff have completely forgotten what Thanksgiving is really about, and care only about sales and profits. Money, money, money. But for thousands of retail employees, many would prefer to sacrifice holiday pay to be able to spend that time at home, sharing family moments of togetherness and thanks, remembering their blessings and all they are grateful for.
"It's not worth it," says an employee of Macy's who asked to remain anonymous. "I'd rather be home with my kids than working Thanksgiving night or sleeping through our family dinner."
L., a Toys "R" Us employee, agrees. "I am grateful to have a job in this economy, but stores have gone too far. Why can't we be home with our families on Thanksgiving instead of working it? Isn't this supposed to be our time?"
R., a parent of a teenage retail worker adds, "I have a son who works in retail and has to be at his store at 11 at night. We shouldn't have to fight with these companies to have our children home to spend time with family on major holidays."
Is this the end of retail holiday pandemonium? Or will Christmas be next?