Don’t Go Shopping This Thanksgiving. Just Don’t.

Unless you want to have to work on Thanksgiving one day too, argues the president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute

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Luke Sharett / Bloomberg / Getty Images

There’s been a lot of outrage over Macy’s — the retailer most synonymous with Thanksgiving and family with its parade of floats — deciding to open its stores on the day when we are supposed to give thanks. Petitions have cropped up online against other retailers like Target and Walmart lobbying them to stay closed on Thanksgiving.

But there’s an easier way to take a stand. You don’t have to sign a petition or go out and protest in front of stores. All you have to do is do something else on Thanksgiving Day other than opening your wallet.

(MORE: The Big Lie About Shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday)

Clearly, there are many people who have to work on Thanksgiving, including emergency workers in health care, utilities and other essential services, but early holiday shopping is not essential. Consumers have a choice about shopping, but employees in these stores may not have a choice about whether to work or not.

As a society, we’ve agreed that most of America’s workforce should have key holidays — in this case just one day — to be with family and friends, or just to take a breather from work. Holidays are also up there with vacation days as critical to keeping employees healthy and productive, more so than ever. Our research at the Families and Work Institute shows that the nation’s workforce is more stressed than ever, increasing significantly in recent years. Nearly one-third (32%) of employees report that their work has a primarily negative impact on their lives off the job by draining energy, so they don’t have enough left over for their personal and family life. Our research also shows that those who take vacations and holidays return to work more energized and productive. That’s why so many leading employers are encouraging time off for holidays and vacations.

In a statement, Macy’s said the decision to open on Thanksgiving was “in response to interest from customers who prefer to start their shopping early.” And it’s also true that it’s what some employees want as well, especially when retailers offer to pay time and a half, or when labor agreements include provisions for premium pay. But what I want to do is encourage people to look at the bigger work-life picture. Giving up our holidays can negatively impact our well-being and our personal and family lives. Creating traditions with our children and continuing traditions with our elders can also suffer. More important, it further erodes the already faint distinction between our work and our personal lives, and it’s a trend that just may move from retail to white collar jobs. After all, 50 years ago no one would have thought that professionals would be working nights and weekends, and we all know how that turned out.

Some companies seem to realize that this trend has larger implications and remain Turkey Day–selling holdouts. Costco, often cited as an employee-friendly company, is one of those. This article from 247WallSt.com includes a list of seven retailers bucking the trend. One of the retailers mentioned in the piece includes P.C. Richard & Son. A statement on the company’s blog sums up why opening stores on Thanksgiving or shopping at stores that are open on that day may not be a good thing.

It is our opinion that retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving Day show no respect to their employees and families, and are in total disrespect of family values in the United States of America.

While that may sound a little moralistic, in the end, it really is about values, although not necessarily the obvious ones. It’s about keeping the ever encroaching workweek at bay and preserving the notion that we are all entitled to some rest and rejuvenation.

Ellen Galinsky is co-founder and president of the Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. The views expressed are solely her own.

136 comments
DavidBell
DavidBell

Why do all these columnists derive such joy from telling others how to live their lives?

PrestonRoland
PrestonRoland

It is time to say no to anti-family capitalism and stand against store openings on Thanksgiving. I understand that those who instruct others to work but don't themselves are gaining on the backs of others by moving sales that would happen tomorrow into today at the expense of others well-being. If you consider this construct ill-conceived and teetering on immoral, as I do, make life easier on those foisted from their children and football to the sales floor under treat of unemployment by not showing up to buy stuff on the day when the stores should be closed. 

Steve_Red_Dog
Steve_Red_Dog

What a wonderful idea.  In fact, we ought to shut everything down.  No restaurants, no air or bus travel, no TV, no phones, no police, fire, or EMS.  Tell the military to stand down, because we all need a break some time, and THIS is the holiday we all need to take. 


What a crock.  Millions of people work every holiday.  I've worked my share, and worked P/T today.  It's been that way for decades.  Why should retail employees be "special". 

RealDeal
RealDeal

So, you don't condone stores being open on a *cough... holiday that was built on the murdering genocide of the people who were here before the "pilgrims"? Geez, kind of a lopsided way of thinking now, isn't it?

ValeriaT
ValeriaT

If you don't want to shop on Thanksgiving, don't.   But don't tell other people to live by your choice.  Not everyone is going to be able to see their family anyway--all of mine live out of the area.   So I should sit at home in an empty house for the sake of some outdated social concept?   Please. *rolling eyes*  

drstrangelove
drstrangelove

I walked way from a 48K a year Loss Prevention management position at Kmart in 2008 because of their plan to expand Thanksgiving hours. It's only become worse. I have never nor will ever shop ANYWHERE on any national holiday or the day after thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or New years Eve. In fact, I was ready for Christmas in July. But then again, I am not the target consumer retailers want. I do not shop at walmart, kmart, target, etc. I purchase nearly everything from independent retailers and still pay the same as everyone who shops big box retailers. I carry no credit card, car, or mortgage debt and have money in the bank, own a car, own a home, and have everything I need plus some things I don't need. Yet, I make less than $33,000 a year. If I can do this, so can anyone else in my income region. besides, who would want a 60 inch LED TV for 299? It will not be working by Easter and good luck trying to get support.

NathanGrigsby
NathanGrigsby

Here's this stupidly super brilliant idea: NO MORE FRAGGLING BLACK FRIDAY SALES. It solves every problem at once, AND you don't have to stay open on Thanksgiving for "early holiday shopping"!

NicholasGray
NicholasGray

I don't understand why they changed it from opening up early in the morning to opening up the mega sales when people are suppose to be eating and enjoying Thanksgiving with family. Part of the fun is waking up early and going to wait in line for some great deals. I have actually met some really nice people while in line, spark up a conversation with a fellow American about various subjects. I can understand some mega chains being open with volunteer employees who may not care to meet with family or friends in order to accommodate certain people who may have forgot something for their meals but why change it. It kills the fun to be honest and it gave most people the chance to actually enjoy each other during Thanksgiving, rather than wait in line for a new T.V. I don't know why but something feels fishy about this whole thing.

TináMaginlëy
TináMaginlëy

I'm thrilled, actually I can't STAND when every store in town is closed on holidays (except CVS/Walgreens) and you run out of something and have no other options except to stand in line with 20 other fools on Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I think if you don't like working on holidays retail is probably NOT a good career choice.  I worked in retail and I know they get paid 1 1/2-2 times their normal salary plus always ask for volunteers first so I've been there/done that.  I think boycotting stores is only going to cause these people to lose their jobs altogether.  Well, then they can have TONS Of time with their families, right?

ShaundraBerno-Roth
ShaundraBerno-Roth

I worked at a popular retail store for about 5 years. I have had to work 4 Black Fridays in a row. For 3 of those Black Fridays, I have had to give time up with my family, to come in at 7 pm on Thanksgiving in order for our customers to shop. I certainly do not mind giving up my time to be away from my family to make money, but I do believe customers are divas on Thanksgiving night. I am giving up my time to help you have a better Thanksgiving, and instead of trying to understand that we do sell out of certain items, I get told how stupid, and how poorly I do my job. If this is how customers feel, I rather eliminate Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales and just be with my family, since I only get to see them so very few times a year. Please try to be respectful of cashiers, and floor members on Thanksgiving, we are only trying to pay bills and make your holidays more special.(And please stop punching us, its not going to get you your item any faster). I hope everyone has a magical holiday season.


ashdoesfx
ashdoesfx

Why don't we get rid of holidays all together? Since they're all gimmicks, and we can show thanks, and love everyday. They're nothing but days anyway. Right? Maybe getting rid of the whole holiday idea is better than using them as a selling point. Then rather having to work ridiculous hours to give people "special deals" it would just be a regular work day. I can deal with that better than the madness it's become.

jenspends
jenspends

People need to get their priorities back in order. There is no reason to shop on Thanksgiving. None. As far as employees who don't have family and/or really need the money...that's just sad. If you know somebody in that situation, don't delude yourself into thinking that your shopping is helping them--why not invite them over to dinner, or give them cash equal to the (pitiful) amount they would earn working that day? A lot of the shoppers who crowd the stores on these days aren't even trying to get their holiday shopping done. No, they're just going to turn around and resell it. It's sad to see greed and desperation taking over in our country.

ZacKonopka
ZacKonopka

You people are killing me. I work for walmart. Was asked if I would like to work on thanksgiving. I said no. What happens? Im scheduled to work anyway. 2 to 11 pm, on top of that im also scheduled to come back in 5am friday for black friday. What was the point in asking me? I see comments on how walmart offers great pay, and incentive to work then. Give me a break. All we are offered is a 25% discount on one purchase. Oh boy, so the very little money im paid, i can give right back to them?All so these rude customers can come in a buy a toaster, or tv for.$100. When in reality the damn thing was made for $3 by some slave in china..Another great comment "get another job" man i wish i was in your world. I agree holidays are not what they used to be. Thats our own fault. America has gone down the tubes. There no such thing as commen sence, respect, or beliefs anymore. Its all about being politically.correct. I could go on forever, bht why waste my breath.

Candykane
Candykane

I will be there with bells on. I want lots of stuff. Plus I will pay for it with my credit card then in a few months I will be declaring bankruptsy and other folks will be paying for it. Good planning? YES

graberc
graberc

I DO NOT make decisions for families that are not my own.  Self-righteous ****** 


How do you know these people aren't working to earn something for christmas

me56
me56


All well and good, unless you're a "temp" (aka agency employee on assignment) or contractor - i.e., the new "tenth class citizen" in corporate America!  If you don't give the decency of PAID time off for vacations or holidays, well, you may just see the next "special episode" of one of those true crime shows where an overly stressed "temp" or contractor goes off on society!  Best that people turn their collective backs on this sham until ALL are treated decently!

DerrickNelson
DerrickNelson

It isn't like working on Thanksgiving, and even on Christmas day, is something new. Twenty-five years ago I had jobs that required working on holidays like that. Video rental stores, restaurants, half the retail stores in existence even then were opera 365 days a year. TV and radio stations, gas stations, hospital staff, emergency services (police, EMTs, Firefighters), power plants, air traffic controllers, the list goes on and on. It isn't reserved to the Macys and Walmarts - it is everywhere, and it has been around for quite some time. Some of those jobs, there isn't much choice. To maintain safety and essential services, people must work on holidays. But for retail.... That is only about pursuing the all mighty dollar. For retail and most service businesses, there is no reason to be open on holidays.

RavenSkyeWalden
RavenSkyeWalden

Think this whole thing with being open on a holiday is being blown up by people who do not realize, stores have almost always been open during this time. Police have to work, fire department has to work, call centers all across the country have to work. Nurses and doctors have to work. This is not a new thing. I have not had one job in the last 25 years that was closed on Thanksgiving or Christmas. 99% of the time, it's volunteer to work time and a half, it wasn't a requirement. I always did, I celebrated the next day or the following weekend. You need to petition all the major companies, 90% or so, are all open and running their business, sales, support on Holidays.. ALL DAY.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

This seems to be a rather invidiously unreasoned argument.  Giving "thanks"?  Really?  It's just a contrived day of the year where some people have agreed to get together to over eat, watch sports, occasionally burn down a home, garage or patio with underdeveloped turkey-frying skills and count the minutes til "Black Friday" starts, usually with people they don't really get along with.

What the hell is there to give thanks about in THAT, except for the day to be OVER?

bear1234
bear1234

I always volunteered to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas because I got paid overtime. I could then take other days of the year off and enjoy them with my family and friends. Now I'm glad that I'll be able to shop on Thanksgiving because it was always a major hassle that everything was closed. Not everyone in America celebrates the same holidays or cares about arbitrary days of the year more than getting paid extra. Stop imposing your values on everyone else! 

bigred
bigred

Only reason any business is open on a holiday (or any other day) is simple: Money.  Doesn't matter whose money, be it personal or business, they'll take whatever they can milk out of the cows, uh, customers and laugh all the way to the bank. Money!!  Getting it, spending it, flaunting how much you have and what you can buy with it, from the biggest flat-screen or newest electronic toy (What, I have to wait ten more minutes for the new iPhone!!) to the priciest politician.  

BenDickison
BenDickison

As soon as you try to put your "values" on a business and economics you have lost your ability to claim you are speaking from an unbiased position. It is these "values" that have some places claiming that hiring gay people is against their "values" - these are the "values" that make some think it is alright to not respect religious freedom.  


All of the  places that open on Thanksgiving are doing so because if they want to remain competitive and not have to close stores and lay off workers then it makes sense to be open. The employees in most places line up trying to get these shifts so they can get extra money for their own Christmas shopping as most - even the Giants like Walmart - have very attractive pay and benefits for those that do work on the holidays. 

There was one thing that made sense on this whole thing - if you do not believe in shopping on a particular day then do not - but keep your "values" to yourself and let everybody else decide for themselves before these values have you asking for the reenactment of the blue laws that said businesses cant be open on Sundays and a thousands of others as you impose your "values" on the rest of the country....

BillGallagher
BillGallagher

@TináMaginlëy , MOST retailers will not be paying extra, and will simply schedule employees as normal...not take volunteers. When they were hired by the retailer, Thanksgiving was not on the table, and I can assure you that they weren't asked about it. 

You can rest pretty well assured that the executives that actually made this decision will be at home with their families, while 90% of their employees will be trapped in a store without their families and traditions. 

And for what? There won't be any extra sales. All that will happen is that the dollars that would have been spent later over the weekend  will simply be spent earlier.

Greed, plain and simple.

RetailHell
RetailHell

@TináMaginlëy How about you prepare for one day when the stores are closed. What could you possibly run out of that you couldn't wait 24 hours for. You and people like you are the problem. You can't stand to be with your family for one day?

IveGottaBeMe
IveGottaBeMe

@TináMaginlëy Agreed about boycotting stores and how it really just punishes the workers...my hours are already being cut a lot, because we're not making sales lately...but we don't make one and a half to two times our normal salary. Holiday pay where I work is an extra dollar on Thanksgiving...which I don't work at all, but a couple family members do...and fifty cents for every hour during a certain period of time, which I just barely miss.

drstrangelove
drstrangelove

@ashdoesfx i agree. how many people will even think for a second about the migrant farm workers, poultry farmers, freight haulers, etc. who make it possible to even eat? maybe me and a dozen others.

drstrangelove
drstrangelove

@jenspends true. think about this, nearly all hourly retail employees are part time and make less than 10 dollars an hour. what will an extra 80 dollars before taxes once a year do for anyone?

werdsmith
werdsmith

@jenspends -- There's this absolutely insane thing here in the US called freedom, and (oddly enough) people are actually taking advantage of it.  It's weird... 

bear1234
bear1234

@jenspends I'm an immigrant. America's main appeal is freedom--the ability to worship/celebrate whatever you want. I want to make money on Thanksgiving so I can take the day off on Chinese New Year and spend it with my family. What exactly is wrong with me and my priorities?  

brasco
brasco

@jenspends Why should I.  I'm not interested in having people over to my house just so I can say that I celebrated like a good family values American.  I like to shop and I like my peace and quiet.  Don't tell me or anyone else what to do and how to live.

marroxelica
marroxelica

@ZacKonopka Most labor laws require an 8 hr period between shifts and if that is the case in your state then Walmart is clearly (and obviously) violating the labor laws.  I sincerely do wish you the best of luck in your job search and do not support Walmart at all because of stories like yours.

drstrangelove
drstrangelove

@Candykane you forgot about the people who will be paying for your injuries when you were trampled at store opening time.

drstrangelove
drstrangelove

@RavenSkyeWalden other than kmart being open on thanksgiving for the past 22 years, big retailers have only done this recently. I remember when 7-11 was closed for a half day on christmas and thanksgiving. yes, emergency services, atc, hospitals, pharmacies were always open, but these are essential services. as far as i am concerned, no retailers should be open on any holiday, let alone be open 24 hours. all this to buy more cheap plastic crap that will be broken by easter?

koenig
koenig

@RavenSkyeWalden That's funny... Police, Fire departments and Hospitals are not "stores". They are essential services that are needed. If someone gets hurt or has a heart attack, you get the idea.

What have you been doing for the last 25 years? I'm 31 and have been working the last 16 years. Since I've been working, there have not been stores open like this. A FEW Grocery stores or a "quickie mart" may be open but they're only open for a few hours. Until 4-5PM in which after that time they can actually have dinner with family. They would definitely be closed for Christmas and on New Years day. Hell, people are working on Thanksgiving for shopping now. Maybe Christmas will be open too so I can still run and go buy more last minute presents because I'm too stupid to do my shopping sooner [/sarcasm]

I worked at Best Buy about 8 years ago. There was NOTHING "voluntary" about Black Friday. We were told that if we didn't show up to work for Black Friday, we would be FIRED, plain and simple. I quit the following year just a couple weeks before Black Friday. If that's so voluntary, I shouldn't have been forced to work. Oh and I didn't get paid extra either. I got paid "normal" wages. But I had to come in on Thanksgiving night to "ready" the store for Black Friday. This was back when they actually used to open at 6AM

Retail is the worst type of work to get into, however; some people did not have the opportunity to get an advanced education to make a career in something else and go work on a corporate/office level.

arobin30
arobin30

@RavenSkyeWalden  Did you not read the article?  Of course hospitals and police stations and the like are open on holidays, because those are NECESSARY services.  And guess what?  I have a hunch that a police officer and a doctor might just make more than the average Walmart employee.  Nobody NEEDS an iPad or a flat screen TV on Thanksgiving.  There is no reason these stores need to be open on Thanksgiving, and the logic certainly isn't there to make them open just because hospitals are open.  Being open so that people are safe and being open so that consumerists can practice their greed to a religious degree are different matters entirely. Additionally, most retail places do not operate on a volunteer basis on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, it is required.  If you don't show up, you're fired.  Plain and simple.  And please, don't simplify other people's holiday and family practices based around what you did, it's just stupid.  Many people travel on these holidays, and rely on having the whole day off to be able to fit it in.  It's not always possible to have the entire family gathering rearranged over your schedule.  Oh, and for the record, generally speaking the next weekend doesn't work either.  Many retailers during the holidays block off the month of December for requests off, but especially Friday-Sunday. 

Bozobub
Bozobub

@DeweySayenoff What is ANY holiday, really, except "a contrived day of the year where some people have agreed to get together"..?


CodeStud3
CodeStud3

You don't get paid overtime. You work on the holiday and then they give you a day off that week.

drstrangelove
drstrangelove

@BenDickison walmart has attractive pay and benefits? 2/3's of walmart employees rely on some type of public assistance to be able to barely get by. there was a time when working in retail was a good career choice that with good earnings, bennefits, pensions, sick and holiday pay, and 4 weeks of paid vacation a year. today you are lucky to get 30 hours at 10 dollars an hour.

drstrangelove
drstrangelove

@RetailHell @TináMaginlëy I had a friend who worked for blockbuster back in the 90's. She had to work on Christmas day and a customer said to her: "It's a shame youhave to work on Christmas". Her answer? "If people like you conducted business a day early, I would not have to work" then she walked out and never looked back.

americanaly
americanaly

@bear1234 @jenspends You are confusing your own desires with the subject at hand.  You have the right to take off any day you want to so why shouldn't others have those same rights?

drstrangelove
drstrangelove

@bear1234 @jenspends Freedom is not exclusive to the U.S. Go to western Europe or Canada, or Australia, or Japan, or South Korea, etc. Not only do the citizens of these countries have the same entitlements, they make more money, have health insurance, pensions, vacations, sick leave, are more literate, and suffer less depression then we do here.

ashdoesfx
ashdoesfx

See, you don't want to have to work on the holiday you celebrate. And lucky for you, you actaully have the chane and CHOICE to take that day off. So why is it I have to work on the day I want to celebrate?

americanaly
americanaly

@brasco, sometimes it's acceptable to force yourself to think of others.  You should try it sometime.

RetailHell
RetailHell

@marroxelica @ZacKonopka I work for Kohl's and trust me, labor laws are broken on a regular basis. I get scheduled with only 6 hours between shifts on a regular basis.

MatchesMalone
MatchesMalone

@CodeStud3 It's amazing how you know more about bear1234's compensation than bear1234 does. You should really be using those talents for unsolved crimes and stuff.

ashdoesfx
ashdoesfx

I just don't understand why people can't give up a few days out of the year where they can't shop at Macy's or Sears or other stores that aren't neccessarily needed? I can understand maybe keeping grocery stores or pharmacies open for a limited time on a holiday. But is it really that important to have Best Buy open at 8pm on Thanksgiving? And it is a problem with society, a problem with consumption.

MatchesMalone
MatchesMalone

@ashdoesfx That's between you and your employer, not between your employer and society as the author of this poor excuse for an article is suggesting.