Smile Politely

Thanksgiving should be a time to celebrate family, not to shop

Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and loved ones, to avoid those terrible jokes your uncle tells and, of course, to stuff your face with turkey.

And this year, it is also a time to shop.

Black Friday has always attracted die-hard shoppers, those who wait in line for hours for the deals and savings that stores offer. In past years, stores have opened during the early hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year, however, many stores are opening their doors earlier than usual. Target, Macy’s, Best Buy and Kohl’s have announced that for the first time, they will open at midnight on Friday, and Wal-Mart has upped the ante, announcing it will open at 10 p.m. Thursday night.

Companies have decided to open stores earlier because they felt the earlier time was more convenient for shoppers than the usual 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. openings on Friday. They have had some positive feedback from employees whose schedules are more flexible for the holiday weekend if they work on Thanksgiving, and some employees are also offered holiday pay.

Even with increased pay, however, many employees are not pleased with the new store hours, and many shoppers feel that earlier openings will cut into their Thanksgiving plans and are reconsidering hitting the stores on Black Friday.

While I appreciate a good deal just as much as the next person and can see where both parties are coming from, Thanksgiving should remain a sacred time to spend with families and loved ones, eating food, relishing in family traditions and enjoying each other’s company. 

Many shoppers rely on Black Friday to find affordable gifts for the holidays for their family and friends, especially in this troubled economy. A 10 p.m. store opening could mean that shoppers are required to leave their houses and wait in line hours earlier if they want to find the best deals. This year, people may be forced to choose between spending time with their families on the holiday and disappointing them later when they are unable to afford holiday gifts.

Earlier openings force employees to sacrifice their holiday as well. They may be required to work and prepare for the mad rush of shoppers hours before the stores open. With gloomy job prospects in the economy, employees are unlikely to protest or take a stand and quit if they feel the holiday hours are unfair. Instead, they suffer in silence, as will their families who are also deprived of the time.

The new hours point to a larger issue as well. Our culture is becoming increasingly obsessed with material things. Sure, there are people who will forgo Black Friday shopping this year, but there are also plenty who will still be in lines at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, waiting outside Best Buy because they just have to have that discounted computer. Some will even be happy with the new hours, believing they will give them more time to find even more discounts and savings.

I have never been a fan of Black Friday. The length of the lines outside of stores seem ridiculous to me, as do the people who are up by 1 a.m. or even pull an all-nighter to wait in those lines. The mad hordes inside stores, the people running to make sure they get their hands on a desired item and the people fighting over the last toy on the shelf just make me shake my head at how mixed-up some people’s priorities are.

While I don’t take part in Black Friday, I understand some partake out of necessity and others because they enjoy it, and each person is entitled to do as they like. However, both companies and shoppers should remember that Thanksgiving should remain, above all, a holiday filled with tradition, family and friends.

After all, what gift is worth more than sitting on the couch with your family after a meal, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” with a cup of hot chocolate in hand?

Wal-Mart can wait.

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