Column: Only you have the power to bring the holiday back

Jared Huizengawe

BY JARED HUIZENGA – SUN NEWSPAPERS

One of the most vivid Thanksgiving childhood memories I have is that of my mother and aunt covering the table in newspaper ads and mapping out a plan of attack for their shopping conquests the next morning.

I was never “fortunate” enough to join them on one of their Black Friday outings. My cousin, however, was. To this day he gets embarrassed when reminded of the sight of two grown women wearing reindeer antlers, giggling to the point of snorting while attempting to finish a burger and fries.

For me, these memories speak to what a lack of sleep can do to people, as well as the importance of family around the holidays.

That, of course, was when Thanksgiving was a holiday I could actively participate in with my family.

For the seventh time in the last eight years, I will spend the day after Thanksgiving working at a big-box retailer. The schedules of my two jobs added to the distance back home equals me staying in town to celebrate the holiday with friends.

It would seem though that even that is under attack and might be a thing of the past if I continue dabbling in the retail world.

Last week word leaked that big-box retailers including Target and Walmart would not be opening for Black Friday sales on Black Friday, but on Thanksgiving eve.

From what I’ve been able to surmise by talking to friends that also work in retail, most were given the opportunity to rank what shift they work, and many are being offered some sort of financial incentive for cutting their holiday short.

But for me, that’s not the point.

As funny as it might seem to those that have never worked it, retail is rather grueling. The hours are often long and sporadic; you spend most of your time on your feet; you often deal with people who are angry with you simply because you’re the first person they see; and, frankly, the pay isn’t that outstanding.

Thanksgiving and a very small handful of other days were the few days where a retail employee could get away from the rigors of their job and relax. Now, at least a part of that day has been taken away.

As of Nov. 15, there were more than 10 petitions on change.org asking retailers to refrain from opening on Thanksgiving and stick to a Friday morning opening. The most popular of those was one directed at Target … it had more than 219,000 signatures.

Retail workers and their families pushed a similar campaign last year and it didn’t change any corporate minds. Given the fact that most stores are opening several hours earlier this year, it seems to have had the exact opposite effect.

But who is to blame for this trend of taking more of the holiday from workers and families?

The truth of the matter is this: if shoppers didn’t demand even more extended holiday hours there wouldn’t be even more extended holiday hours.

Now, do I mean that people are calling, emailing and Facebooking these companies and actually demanding that? Absolutely not. But by showing up several hours before a store opens to wait in line for a $5 coffee maker or $200 TV, shoppers are giving corporations the indication that they care more about shopping and getting deals than they do about the holiday.

As long as people continue to turn out with cash and credit cards in hand, businesses will continue to take that money and will continue pushing the envelope as to how early they can begin taking said money.

In business, the only thing that speaks is money. Signing an online petition means nothing. Having a team of employees spending yet another holiday away from their families is a reality of the industry they work in. A holiday is just another day if there’s a buck to be made.

If you want retailers to protect the sanctity of Thanksgiving – or any holiday – the only way is to speak through your wallet and your actions. Stop showing up so early and the businesses will soon follow.

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