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.
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.