Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Need Not Be a Celebration of Consumerism

Just two more days until we “celebrate” the most repressive, exploitive, selfish holiday of the year. Yes, I’m talking about Thanksgiving. What was intended to be a commemoration of our national heritage and good fortune to reside in the country most people in the world aspire to live in has turned into a day of consumerism, a day when the retail industry chooses sales over family, when shoppers display crass, even criminal, behavior to snag trinkets and big ticket items before other desperate souls can get their grubby hands on the goods.

My antipathy toward the commercialization of Thanksgiving is long-standing. I railed against holiday store hours while publishing a retail industry magazine. I reasoned it was an anti-family imposition on retail workers and infused meanness and frenzy to shopping that consumers really need not endure. 

Perhaps you saw the article in The New York Times 10 days ago, “Spending Thanksgiving, Retail Stores Are Facing Off Over Closing or Opening On the Holiday” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/15/business/some-retailers-are-promoting-their-decision-to-remain-closed-on-thanksgiving.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C{%221%22%3A%22RI%3A10%22}&_r=0). Apparently, more retailers are coming around to my way of thinking. But the curve is a long one.

Consider the comments from Dan Evans, a spokesman for Nordstrom, a company that stays closed on Thanksgiving. He told The Times, “If our customers really wanted us to open on Thanksgiving, that’s what we’ll do. We used to be closed on the Fourth of July. We used to be closed on New Year’s Day, but customers wanted us to be open on those days, so now we’re open on those days. Our customers guide us. We don’t guide them.”

That last sentence says a lot about leadership in this country and our collective mores. Instead of setting a values standard, corporate America is willing to cede responsibility to a vocal group that, like the Queen song, screams, “I want it now, I want it all.” And I don’t give a damn how it inconveniences your workers. 

At the end of the day, is it really worth fighting over a few doorbusters at the expense of your dignity and the ability of mostly underpaid retail workers to spend quality time with their families? 

Enjoy your turkey.