(This week I had my students write open letters about something they wanted to see changed in our world! They did a great job! This was my example one.)
Dear Black Thursday Sales,
I’ll start by assuring you that I love a good deal. I am the type of person who goes to multiple grocery stores for the best prices and shops at Dollar Tree instead of Dollar General because unlike the General, the Tree’s prices actually are a dollar. In fact, I even ordered toilet paper from Amazon last month because I priced it out and realized it was slightly cheaper than Costco or Walmart. So trust me: I care about the right price.
For years and years, the last Thursday of the month has been reserved for Thanksgiving, a day of family, friends, and food, a day of hay rides, baked and fried turkeys, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole. Most families have a special feast that evening, often gathering relatives far and wide to come to the table. Not even Christmas is centered on a central meal in the same way. The dinner is the main event of Thanksgiving, and you my Thursday Sales Openers are dragging shoppers and employees away from one of the few family oriented holidays left in our fragmented America.
Walmart for example, you opened your sales at 6:00 pm in stores this year, the traditional dinner hour for most people in this country. What happened to at least waiting until 10:00 or 12:00? Heaven forbid Friday morning. Even if people eat earlier in the day, most families still spend the day together, visiting throughout the evening as well. And that doesn’t include couples who need to visit more than one side of the family. This is the problem you pose: because of your commercialization, people can’t fully participate in the family holiday.
A friend of mine named Robin, a mother of four, said that she would have to cook all day, set dinner on the table, and then head out the door because she needed to get certain Christmas items that would only be available until they ran out at Walmart. Complicating this problem, she needed things from multiple stores like Target, who also opened at 6:00pm, but couldn’t bring her husband because someone needed to watch their children during the Thanksgiving Dinner hours! Who can get a babysitter on Thanksgiving? And who should need to? Congratulations Walmart, Target, Best Buy, JCPennys, Sears, Belk, Macy’s, and so many more. You have added to this problem. And you have taken what should have been a family night and turned it into a choice between a family dinner and a way to provide Christmas for a struggling family. Talk about skipping straight to Christmas; we’re so grateful.
Some might argue that no one forces Robin or other shoppers to go, but trying to provide four children with a Christmas present is difficult in certain financial circumstances, so it’s the Black Friday price or a no-go at all. It’s sad that Thanksgiving traditions might have to be sacrificed in this scenario. She is definitely not alone. It’s the same conversation I had with a mother in Walmart last year; she was in line for a gift only possible to buy during this sale.
Aside from the hassle for customers, the largest travesty is requiring employees to miss Thanksgiving with their families. It’s one thing for a doctor or nursing home caretaker to have to work Thanksgiving, but a store employee? Staffing the Thursday sales requires more employees than normal to work, pulling more away from home. It’s not like you can say to most of them to just find a new job if they don’t like it. Few people who are working these sales have loads of job opportunities knocking on their doors. People work because they need the money, and the least you can do, is give them the simple pleasure of spending time with their families on a day that the rest of the world should be calm. Because of you though, instead of dead streets and full houses, we have disheartened employees and disgruntled customers.
Would it be so difficult to push back the sale openings to Friday again? If each business were willing to do so, then we could have a happy medium, where the holiday is enjoyed, and business can go crazy the next day. As one of my students pointed out, you’d still receive customer money. How about setting the example for other businesses? People might actually choose you for your integrity because of it. Not to mention that if you advertise what you’re selling and when, people will wait for your sale before spending all their money, just like they wait for Cyber Monday for the online sales. People who shop on Black Friday usually know what will be on sale ahead of time and have made plans, not arbitrary purchases.
The only other solution to the way things currently are is to ask people to forgo the sales altogether. And maybe they should, but it does seem like a lot to ask of a parent knowing most other children will receive the benefits of Black Friday/Thursday deals on Christmas morning. That may be what I end up having to do. If you’re going to intentionally harvest Thanksgiving from many constituents in this country, then I will intentionally refrain from adding to your revenue in this “Our Sales Are Bigger, Better, and Earlier Than Yours” contest.
Again thank you for your superb treatment of your staff. That really makes me want to fund your enterprise. Thus, I will abstain, and I hope many people will join with me.
A wife, teacher, future mother, and concerned citizen.