Current Trends

Oh yes, once again this year many major stores elected to open sometime on Thanksgiving Day offering bargain basement deals sparking the same old protests and objections that people are so centered on materialism they can’t even spend one day with their family, let their turkey and mashed potatoes cool, never mind digest, before joining the masses to buy more stuff they can’t afford, to impress people they don’t like, that their kids will lose interest in within days, weeks, possibly even hours. Alongside the now consistent outrage over seeing Christmas décor intermingled with Halloween costumes, familiar target petitions becoming white noise in the quest to bring back family values, resist corporate greed are entities like Whole Foods’ employees eventually wining the family oriented holiday off to spend with their loved ones after protests; at the forefront this year more than in years passed, the plight of employees many of whom have young children, growing families who would rather be home but need the money, particularly during the holidays. Especially true contrasted against franchises like Toys ‘R Us flinging wide their doors at 5:00 PM to offer huge deals bringing consumers to their store. Unfortunately coupled with the inevitable stories of absolute chaos and the worst of humanity displayed on black Friday, a man shot at one Illinois Kohl’s, a stabbing outside a California mall, bedlam at various Wal-Mart stores nationwide;  it only fuels a want to return to traditional values, family focused holidays. Yet like all complaints around the unique season meant to exhibit peace on earth good will to men and how people, in the 21st century, suddenly choose to spend it, tradition and simplicity have overlooked key cultural changes; no, not necessarily honing in on materialism, but changes in personal relationships, family dynamics.

Forgotten is not everyone has family coming home for Thanksgiving; their children may be grown, in other parts of the country unable to come to Thanksgiving, may have to choose between Thanksgiving and Christmas to travel, be so far away from work, make the effort of packing kids and self in the car to grandma’s house worth it in the name of staying awhile. Persons may be estranged from their family, may be unable to afford to go to them in order to make amends, individuals could be incarcerated or have done things so reprehensible in that other relative’s mind they no longer wish to associate with them. Similarly, sad as it is, not everyone has a family; older members of society are often found with all their living relatives deceased, younger people routinely move for job opportunities, delay starting families, striking up that relationship with a significant other, may have grown up in foster care without a family, may be the victim of a tragedy robbing them of family members, or their lifestyle is unaccepted by those they love. Whether that be choosing a different career path, their choice of boyfriend, lover, husband, wife, leaving them alone or with one other person on a holiday meant to be, routinely depicted as, spent with many others. Younger couples, singletons may forgo traditional ways to celebrate the holiday in order to erase bad childhood memories of creepy, drunk relatives, fights, boring moments with uncle so and so, aunt such and such’s mental illness on display, perhaps to even supplant the memory of a death in the family, a horrific accident occurring on or around this day years before. These people need things to do on traditional holidays too. Being out in public may also not be about shopping so much as having something to do other than sit in their house, apartment alone, depressed; keeping in mind just because holiday suicide spikes have been proven myth doesn’t mean it can’t or doesn’t happen. Nor has it been disproven that part of the unchanged rate during the time of year is due not only to increased social connections but increased awareness could be a possibility. Here is the pool of workers retailers should be mobilizing, people in their employ sans family, people for whom it would give them purpose, either in allowing someone with a family the day off or feeling useful on a day they cannot partake in normal festivities along with those of other cultures Muslims, Jewish people, Kwanza celebrators to staff stores on largely American holidays. True this year the beginning of Hanukah and Thanksgiving coincided creating Thanksgivukkah, something that is not slated to happen again, at the earliest in about 60 years; normallyHanukah has more impact on Christmas. But giving people of other faiths, nationalities, belief systems their treasured days off does more than foster a multicultural, tolerant workplace; it provides workers to man stores through our special days. Temp workers are already a staple in stores’ holiday business plan; if retailers selling huge deals as opposed to groceries want to be open, they have the option to hire works for the day, the Thanksgiving week to compensate for the lack of required volunteers.  Sadly, instead of doing that, what once was voluntary, working on Thanksgiving, like in the case of Whole foods, has suddenly become mandatory is one significant downside to black Friday gray Thursday marketing. And no one is saying you should be fired from your job, like the Pizza Hut manager, or have your hours, bonus threatened a-la the Sears worker refusing to open on Thanksgiving; such actions are reprehensible and, as demonstrated, unnecessary. Thanksgiving should be spent with family by those who want to do so; as for everyone else, they should celebrate it or not as they see fit, facts that include shopping till you drop if you so choose.      

    Bringing us to the next realistic point, virtually ignored in all the uproar over retailers suddenly open on Thanksgiving Thursday, are the number of other establishments open as well; apart from entities such as hospitals, police, fire stations, 911 call centers, gas stations, hospitality services like hotels, needing to remain open for obvious reasons, in addition to the number of eateries, community, charitable organizations giving out free meals to the poor, homeless, destitute  are  restaurants offering all the expected fixings at reasonable prices not just for the boon they can make in dollars over the holiday. Certainly there was no doubt some backlash when Ryan’s Golden Coral, select diners began to be open on turkey day, even more when the trend thus migrated to Christmas; still it doesn’t compare to the hullabaloo generated from retailers doing the same. Maybe it’s because the latter are seen as open fulfilling a consumer need, singletons again absent family in whatever circumstance who can find a good solid meal, potentially evoke good memories, removing all the work for just themselves alone. Couples just starting out and on their own may find they can afford buffet, diner prices, nothing else, often harried young professionals, most everyone, has to work the day before Thanksgiving so a ton of work usually seems too much for two people. The more intimate setting can mimic a date, be a source of reconnection between otherwise too busy people simultaneously avoiding typical holiday stress. Small to midsized families could discover that can afford an appetizer, entrée and dessert at places like Country Kitchen but cannot come up with the average cost, nearly $50, for all the turkey and trimmings to feed their brood. Others are happy to pay the roughly $10 a person via a buffet style restaurant, needing no reservation only patients, where almost anyone can find something they’ll enjoy, minus all the pots, pans, dishes hours spent cleaning up the mess, cleaning the house to put your best foot forward to guests, arguing among family members about who is to bring what to the dinner, finding yourself unexpectedly missing a crucial fixture of your thanksgiving feast. Speaking of missing parts of meals, when did our collective amnesia become so profound we have forgotten 30 odd years of grocery stores remaining open at least until noon, helping out people who forgot the cranberry sauce, someone who realizes they need the ingredients to make another pumpkin pie, purchasing paper/disposable plates because little junior pulled off and broke the giant stack meant for dinner, bought the dessert because they had no time to make it? Short distance travelers headed to grandmas, cousins, parents homes charged with bringing dish X hardly have escaped years described as follows: hit a patch of ice, avoided a dear, barely saw the curb and split family recipe gravy all over the backseat, forget the pecan pie, my car now needs to be detailed, sending them to the local store to retrieve ingredients or a finished product to put on the table. Movie theaters in next to any sizable city housing more than a store and stoplight have long remained open on Thanksgiving as well as Christmas day; several box office hits have been released on those dates providing alternate forms of entertainment to parades and football. Incidentally parades being an acceptable form of Thanksgiving fun, entertainment, shopping not.            

However well-intentioned the push to go back to tradition, family, values, however heartening it is to see people protesting in the name of the low on the totem pole, low wage workers who should be with their families, it is partly misplaced, not only due to the lack of families in some cases, trends toward various commercial venues being open, even more than taking into account Whole Foods working was voluntary; both them and Target share a key commonality. Nearly all Target stores have gone from a store that sells toys, electronics, clothes, cosmetics and nothing more than soda and snacks to the Superstore model coined by Wal-Mart; meaning they, like Whole Foods, sell groceries. The latter was selling pre-prepared Thanksgiving items, part of why it didn’t want to close its doors, and in selling groceries both places under older business models would have been open half their normal hours receiving a steady stream of Thanksgiving oops shoppers. At the same time, despite the deplorable behavior of some business chains toward workers who stood up for what they believed to be right, this is not about abuse of the low wage worker on the business or the public side; on the business side it is a poorly executed way to meet consumer demand, and on the public side it is more complaining about things they simply do not wish to participate in couched in morality. They don’t want to buy gifts for their office, their neighborhood, their church Christmas party, their in-laws, are scared to death of spoiling their kids thanks to headlines and pop psychology, so they decry retail outlets open on Thanksgiving. They are daunted, intimidated by the shopping experience, the number of people on their list, the upcoming holiday parties they detest and therefore yell loudly about retail outlets offering deals on a day meant for giving thanks. They don’t want to deal with the crowds, the thirst to get a deal so they, however justifiably, use the trampling, brawls and in extreme cases deaths to scream about consumerism rather than truly standing up for what they believe in or admitting they wouldn’t mind shopping, wouldn’t mind getting at least one deal if it didn’t mean handling the madness that came too. It concurrently disregards the economy, when people actually begin to think about, plan their Christmas purchases; personally I know 3 sets of people who began probing relatives about what their children were into, what they would like for Christmas in October. All 3 are lower income persons who needed to know then in order to price wanted merchandise and decided which ones to get. My best friend illustrate people who without the black Friday, gray Thursday wouldn’t have that TV, i-pad or a single gift for everyone on their list sans the deals they will get there; she was willingly braving the crowds to take advantage of a 40% off sale at our local Hobby Lobby to buy her husband a long wanted model car for Christmas. While out she planned to do required everyday shopping before her oldest 2 children returned from a post-Thanksgiving dinner visit to the grandparents.

 Equally lost on our right thing to do Pizza Hut manager and likeminded individuals are purely Thanksgiving motivations to be open on turkey day, just how many people have holiday cooking nightmares; the lets deep fat fry the turkey scheme that ends up with a charred turkey, a fire in the deep fat fryer, usually kept outside thankfully, the several who even manage set their houses on fire in the attempt. Or perhaps he hasn’t seen the seasonal Allstate ad, the above video, barbecue grills engulfed in flames as people try new ways of cooking the thanksgiving bird; results driving hosts, families to the diner or takeout menu of whatever is open to appease hungry guests already waiting hours for a meal. They shouldn’t have something to eat because he refuses to open his doors, there has to be, and there is, a better way. To say nothing of the volunteers manning the Butterball and similar hotlines; one woman doing so for 28 years, another doing so while her husband was at home with her kids preparing Thanksgiving so others could have their Thanksgiving crisis questions answered. Proving making such a stink about being open holidays, about shopping on holidays, about retailers only trying to get your money, also disregards people with local plans who could work a morning shift somewhere and still make it home for an evening dinner. One news anchor commented, considering when some stores planned on opening up, dinner would have to become Thanksgiving lunch; missed completely is families who’ve always done it that way, people who staggered their cooking throughout the week to accommodate quantities needed for a large number of guests, people who try to have everything ready between noon and 1:00 PM allowing later comers with more than one set of relatives to visit, small children to  graze through the afternoon evening, get dessert later than the meal proper. People who do celebrate this way could work a shift say 4:00 PM to 8:00, if they desired to.  Bushed off all too quickly are persons who work a shift on a holiday because not only do they get paid, but get paid time and a half or double time allowing them to get ahead on bills, have more to spend during the holiday, people who work bell ringing and other jobs for needed cash if their employer isn’t open and thus presenting the aforementioned opportunity. Another fact, by the time the bulk of gray Thursday deals begin most are passed out on their couches mindlessly watching football; for those who don’t want to watch endless bowl games, have no interest in watching meatheads slam into each other, here is a way to jumpstart Christmas preparation, avoid last minute procrastination and work off some of the calories you just consumed. Unmentioned is perhaps shopping for loved ones on Thanksgiving, black Friday, that weekend  may be buying for family they didn’t see, family they know they will see at Christmas, the activity helping them not miss their loved ones as much as traditional fan fair only highlighting who’s not there.              

Bottom line, if you believe Thanksgiving is for family, should be spent in that fashion, do so, if you shake your head laughing or in bewilderment at all these people running around crazy for that flat screen TV for just under $100, going gaga for that name brand handbag, sweater, pair of boots, saying that’ll never be me, fine, but others wishing to celebrate in different ways or abstain should be free to do that as well. After all America was founded on freedom; neither should we automatically assume people who take part in black Friday, participate in after Thanksgiving sales did not first spend time with their family, does not know what family is. Almost anything can be turned into a family affair including shopping on Thanksgiving; a different family might go to a movie after all that turkey, someone else may perpetually find themselves sampling a takeout menu, yearly fixture at the local diner because no matter how they try to make their turkey look like Martha Stewart’s it always goes wrong. Further there would be no incentive to be open on such days without people to flock to them; traditionalists too can take heart all the holiday spirit is not lost. Our much loved Pizza Hut manager was offered his job back once media got ahold of the story or perhaps someone higher up than district manager got wind of what happened; it is up to him if he takes it. Lastly, and not for nothing, K-Mart has been open Thanksgiving Day for 20 years flying pretty much under the radar, maybe mentioned as a novelty planning to be open 41 hours straight this season, no riots, not protests, no railings on corporate greed; things that make you go hmm.