Let retail workers enjoy Thanksgiving

By Rebekah Devorak | Student Columnist

There are three types of people on Thanksgiving.

First is the increasingly rare person who savors every last bite of turkey and lingers for hours around the table in warm conversation. Second is the crazy coupon-er who scarfs down stuffing and passes on the pumpkin pie to instead snag a primo parking spot for when the mall opens up at 8 p.m. And third, there’s the retail worker who eats dinner at noon without their family so they can make it to work in time to appease the materialistic masses.

Retail workers missing out on valuable time with friends and relatives all so someone can purchase a $2.99 sweater at Macy’s and a $50 flat screen at Walmart is absurd. Unfortunately there are many people who must work on Thanksgiving, such as medical workers and police officers, simply because they are necessary to keep the world from grinding to a halt. But retail workers don’t fall into this category.

It would seem that some, although not all, are starting to agree. A recent poll from Twice.com shows that 47 percent of shoppers believe brick-and-mortar stores should be closed for Thanksgiving; in comparison, 34 percent said they should remain open.

As someone who has worked in retail for the past three years, there’s nothing that destroys a worker’s spirit quite like being told that they must miss out on spending time with loved ones on a federal holiday. We’ve hit an unfortunate trend in society where businesses value money and sales more than the happiness of their employees.

It’s been argued back and forth for a while now that Black Friday in general is ironic; people spend Thanksgiving counting their blessings and rejoicing in what they have, all before sprinting out at the stroke of midnight for half-price toasters. Now that Black Friday is creeping into turkey time, that sentiment just might be correct.

It’s also no surprise that retail companies rake in a substantial profit on Black Friday. According to USA Today, the industry made more than $9.1 billion in 2014. It makes sense from a business standpoint to want to extend the sales a day prior.

However, does that move really garner more overall profit? The figures say this isn’t necessarily true.

CNN Money reports that in 2013, consumers spent $2.5 billion on Thanksgiving, up from just $810 million the year before. In reality, Black Friday sales for 2013 actually shrunk $1.5 billion because people didn’t venture out for deals two days in a row. When you subtract the Black Friday loss from the Thanksgiving gain, that’s only a $1 billion increase, about what the market expects to make each year.

There’s no real difference, then, between stores opening up at 6 p.m. Thursday or on traditional Black Friday. The only things that truly change are the extra time-and-a-half wages that the company must pay and a surplus of disgruntled employees who don’t want to be ringing out lines of people when they could be watching football.

It’s not a very jolly way to kick off the holiday season.

Although, some stores have listened to the growing number that wants retail workers to have time to enjoy the holiday as well. Outdoor lifestyle company REI recently announced that all physical locations will be closed this Thanksgiving and Black Friday, urging consumers instead to “opt outside.” Fast-fashion business H&M will close as well, in an effort to make the store a “great place to work.” In some regions, H&M locations won’t even open until 6 a.m. Friday.

Costco, Lowe’s, GameStop and Staples are among others deciding to do the same.

Hopefully in the future, all brick-and-mortar stores will be closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. In this technological age, shopping on the internet is a win-win for pretty much everyone. Retail workers can enjoy time with family and friends. Companies can still make a hefty profit from sales. Shoppers will be able to snag all the deals they want – and from the comforts of their homes. Doesn’t browsing for bedding in cozy pajamas with hot chocolate sound more enjoyable than lining up outside a store for hours in the freezing cold?

But until this happens, go easy on any retail workers you encounter if you decide to shop the sales. Black Friday isn’t an excuse to act inappropriately if a price doesn’t ring up correctly or something sells out.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.