Have you heard about the Thanksgiving creep?
We’re not referring to the guy your sister-in-law brought to last year’s holiday dinner. We’re talking about Black Friday sales that have crept their way into Thanksgiving, or even earlier.
For the past few years, retail stores, mostly of the big-box variety, have decided to tempt consumers with “Pre-Black Friday” deals, which means if shoppers want doorbuster bargains, they’d better take that pumpkin pie to-go.
There’s nothing wrong with preview sales, but Thanksgiving is about as close to sacred as our secular country gets. It’s a day reserved for saying grace over blessings, sharing downtime with family, and of course for merrymaking and feasting. And now, due to the creep, it could entail elbowing someone for the last pair of $10.99 pajamas.
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What’s more, REI is keeping the doors locked the day after Thanksgiving for a third straight year, giving its 12,000 employees an extra paid day off, and encouraging them and members of the outdoor recreation cooperative to #optoutside for some fresh air.
Not everyone has that option; working holiday hours is part of the deal for many occupations, from hospitals to prisons, fire departments to newspapers.
But say the words “Black Friday” to most retail workers and watch their faces contort like they ate some bad oysters with their stuffing. They picture the rush of salivating shoppers charging at them with zombie-like zeal for laptops and Xboxes.
Now, many of those retail workers also have to come in Thursday and meet those same ravenous consumers.
There’s a growing backlash against preview Black Friday sales. A University of Connecticut poll shows nine out of 10 Americans say they disapprove of shopping on Thanksgiving. And yet, according to the National Retail Federation, 32 million Americans plan to do so.
Consumers say they plan to spend an average of $967 this holiday season; that number is up 3.4 percent from last year, and brick-and-mortar stores don’t want to be left sitting at the kids’ table.
Retailers hope to combat the convenience of cyber shopping by hosting Pre-Black Friday parties, in-store toy demos and visits from Santa. (Yes, even he has to work on Thanksgiving.)
We blame the Pilgrims, those funny talking Puritans who crossed a hostile sea in search of something more and better. More religious freedom. Better opportunities.
That ethos has translated into American innovation time and again, but somewhere between the Puritans and 21st Century consumerism, we seem to have lost our way. Each year more people are injured or killed in shopping-related accidents than in shark attacks.
If those Pilgrims could see us now, they might scold us for our shiny buttons, and surely wonder how Thanksgiving went from a humble celebration of bounty and survival to standing in a Lakewood Walmart parking lot, shivering in the dawn’s early light.
It’s unlikely that Thanksgiving creep will ever be viewed as Pilgrims’ Progress.
Then again, they never beheld an Xbox.