What's too Early to Shop?

by Melissa Brunner

I was starting to formulate my thoughts for a blog on the topic of stores starting their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day when my mom called, all worked up over watching "The View" Monday morning.

She says the conversation started innocently enough, with Whoopi Goldberg expressing sympathy for all the people who have to work at those stores on the holiday, asking when were they supposed to be able to spend time with their families. But then the other cohosts chipped in. Mom couldn't remember which one (she thought it was Elisabeth Hasselback) said the workers were being paid double time so it wasn't like they were being compensated. Then, Barbara Walters said the workers could choose which hours they wanted to work.

It was those last two comments that got mom fuming. You see, my mom worked retail for nearly 40 years before finally getting last season off - forced retirement due to her store closing. First, she says, not a whole lot of retail chains are paying double time anymore. Second, she says, workers can not necessarily choose when they want to work during the holiday season, especially when it comes to Black Friday. Management says you are all required to work, you will all work if you want to continue to have a job. Over the years, mom saw Black Friday creep from the 7 am opening, to 6 am, to 5 am and, finally, to the 4 am it was when she retired. She also talked about Christmas Eve closing time. She says it used to be 4 pm, and the store manager would hang around and wish everyone a merry Christmas, before they headed off to services or dinner with families. By the time she retired, they were open until 9 pm, no store manager around. She talked to the store manager once about why they were doing it and, among the responses, was that churches just needed to have more reasonable schedules for their services.

The bottom line reasoning, from the store CEOs and from the ladies on "The View," is that customers want the stores to be open Thanksgiving. I don't think that's necessarily the case. What I told my mom is that what customers want is the best deal, and they know they have to be at the store when it opens in order to get that deal because of limited quantities. The key variable in that equation is "when the store opens." I don't believe it's that people want the stores to be open Thanksgiving Day, but, if that's when the store is going to offer the best deal, then they'll head to the store in order to take advantage of it.

Am I off-base on my line of reasoning? If the stores were open Thanksgiving Day, but offered had no special sales, would you go? If Black Friday pricing didn't start until 8 am, would you be lining up at 10 pm? Ok, I know those of you already in line at Best Buy probably would, but how about the rest of you?

By the way, Target, Sears, Walmart, Kmart and Toys R Us are among stores starting sales Thanksgiving Day. Among the push-back? A Target worker started a petition at change.org asking the CEO to reconsider the Thanksgiving hours and Walmart workers plan to stage protests at about 1000 locations on Black Friday.

 

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