Monday, November 21, 2011

Common Sense, Aisle One

Hang onto your drumsticks, it's just about that time once again.

There has been a lot of hullabaloo in the past week or so  because some major department stores are planning to open even earlier on Black Friday.  Thanksgiving evening, it seems, is turning into dark gray Thursday night.  Because Store A wants a jump on Store B, now they are going to open at midnight, meaning employees for Store A have to show up while Cinderella is finishing up her last piece of pie.  Or in other words, at 11pm.

Some people are HOT (as in angry) about this development.  Some people are HOT (as in excited) about Christmas shopping at midnight.  And then, some people are like me.

The angry-hot people have petitions available for digital signing. "How dare they!" They cry.  "Is no holiday sacred?" They ask.  "It's a slippery slope!!" They warn.  I understand all the arguments.  I agree with them.

The excited-hot people honestly don't care. "At least they have a job!" they counter.  "Stores have the right to open when they want" they claim.  I understand all these arguments too.  And, I agree with them as well.

Yes, I understand, sympathize and agree with both sides of this issue, which for me isn't tricky at all.  Money is tight and shoppers are desperate for savings however they can get them.  But Black Friday shopping has gotten more out of control with each passing year.  Nowadays it's not unusual to hear reports of who got trampled in the same news story that describes the best sales.

For many, many years both in high school and college I worked in the movie theater business.  My first holiday season (two screens Kramer vs. Kramer and two screens Electric Horseman -- yes, I'm that old) was a total shock.  In the 17 years I had been alive it had never once occurred to me that anybody would go to the movies on a holiday.  I didn't even realize they were open on days like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I learned quickly that Thanksgiving and Christmas were big BIG movie days, and for twelve years I sucked it up and worked.  It might not have been my favorite thing to do, but as is usually the case, the thought was much worse than the deed, and in the end it always ended up being not as bad as I thought it would be.  Besides, I learned that although holidays movies might not have been my personal choice of activities, they were exactly what was needed for others. After all, lots of people don't even celebrate Christmas, and for some families, a movie on Christmas day was a special outing for the family -- something they could enjoy together.  Who was I to tell people their choice of entertainment was wrong?

And then there is the shopping.  Personally, I find Black Friday shopping ridiculous.  Intellectually, I understand why people plan strategies and make a real event out of shopping the early bird sales, or early-early bird sales, or the it's-so-early-the-bird-hasn't-hatched-yet sales.  But would I tent out on the old parking lot campground, clothed in pajamas and armed only with cell phone, credit card and brass knuckles (in case the crowd gets unruly) and compete for shopping supremacy?  Not on your life.  It's not that I'm staying home to sing the 57th verse of Kum-bah-Yah or "Wahoo-Doray" with my family. I'm not staying home to fulfill some sort of Norman Rockwell picturesque family fantasy.  I'm staying home because I don't like the crowds, I'm not a big fan of the crazy pants holiday sales, and frankly, I do not need a television for a nickel.

If you ask me (which you did not), it seems that the best answer with the least amount of argument and confrontation is do what works best for you.   If you work at a place that is asking you to come in early to accommodate late-night and/or early morning shoppers, then you better do it, or be prepared to battle the crowds in the unemployment line.  You might not like it, and it might not be fair.  But work first, complain later, and if need be, find a different job.  But lots of people work holidays for lots of different reasons, and you can choose to celebrate any time of any day you would like.  There are options.    If, on the other hand, Black Friday is an insult to your every last breath, then by all means, stay home.  Vote with your feet, your car and your wallet.  Nothing speaks louder to a retailer than a wallet full of money walking away.  Stores won't open early if the demand isn't there.

The point is, do what works best for you and your life.  And no matter what, remember the other guy.  If you're shopping as soon as you hear the opening bell at midnight, remember that others may have sacrificed a little or a lot of their precious family time to accommodate your consumerism.  Be polite, be grateful, say please and thank you and SMILE.  If, on the other hand, you wish to protest the latest insult to common sense, holidays, and traditional family gatherings, then by all means, stay home.  Consider yourself lucky that you have the time to spend time and the family to spend it with.  Keep your wallet closed and your mind open because someone, somewhere, will do the exact opposite of what you choose to do, and shocker -- it's okay.  It means we all have a choice.  And that is something to be thankful for.

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