Why I’ll Be Staying Home on Black Friday

black-fridayAs Black Friday creeps onto Thanksgiving, our extended shopping takes even more time away from the men and women who work retail.

Granted, I’ve never been a fan of busting doors for deals and wading through crowds of shoppers. But this year the Black Friday phenomenon has hit closer to home than ever, as my daughter has discovered just how demanding her retail position can be around the Holidays. I understand the joy of the conquest that many feel over a carload of bargains, and I truly wish businesses well this season as we inch our way toward an economic recovery. Nevertheless, the undeniable reality is that this shop-frenzy phenomenon pressures workers who are far from the wage-earning stratosphere to trudge to their stations while others are digesting the pie and snoozily watching the game. For them, the opportunity to travel for Thanksgiving is likely preempted, and the opportunity to enjoy a day of celebration with family and friends is cut short. And if opening on midnight was bad enough, now shops and malls across the United States are opting to open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Do we really need to go that far?

Last year, Black Friday set new records, with 139.4 million shoppers (source: CNN Money) hitting the registers and scooping up deals. As a bellwether for business and a solid retail year, the trend was cheered. Without this success, of course, retail jobs would be scarce – but does it necessarily follow that we need to draw retail workers back to their jobs without the benefit of the true Thanksgiving holiday experience? Many will report for on Thursday for extra early shopping — If you ask me, that’s a big deal. I cheer our human services heroes who regularly give up traditional holiday times to serve their communities: hospitals, emergency personnel and municipal workers who keep us safe and moving. Their sacrifice keeps us all protected and well. But do we truly need to ask retail workers to forego family for the sake of 70% off NOW? Can’t it wait a day or two?

Thanksgiving may well be the ultimate American holiday. The notion of gathering with others to give thanks and celebrate cuts across cultures, religions and social strata – whatever life’s “good stuff” may be for each of us, we honor it in the great melting pot of our society. This nondenominational, apolitical day is both intensely personal and all about community. It capsulizes the best of America. So why are we in such a hurry to deprive a huge sector of service workers of this experience? It just doesn’t seem right.

So I will be staying home on Black Friday. I only have one vote, and I will vote with my wallet. Retailers, you will still see me over the next few weeks – in fact, you’ll probably earn more since I’ll miss those door-busting deals. But for me, the discounts are just not worth asking retail workers to show up for work on Thanksgiving evening. It’s a protest that will hardly make a ripple – but it matters to me.

For those who do brave the madness, I have one special request. Please be extra sure to look the retail men and women you encounter in the eye as they frantically fold and refold and stock and answer and tally up your savings, and tell them “Thank you.” Chances are pretty good that they gave up something this Thanksgiving to answer retail’s extra early call. Your appreciation may not be as good as that uneaten pie, but it sure will help to sweeten the day.