The public reaction that met Macy's and Kohl's announcements that they plan to stay open for business on Thanksgiving was swift and disapproving. From the department stores' perspective, it's a matter of trying to squeeze an extra day out of the holiday shopping season and more money from our wallets. But the public's reaction? Well, the public is wringing its hands over how many retail workers will miss precious time with their families.
Here's a reality check: Not everyone enjoys the company of their family and if the stores turn out to be packed on Nov. 28, I would have to say that there are a lot of people -- retail workers and otherwise -- who appreciate having an alternative to watching Uncle Ted pass out drunk on the couch.
I think that in the fairy tale-ization of our lives, we ignore the fact that some people actually dread the forced festivities of the holidays and would much prefer sitting them out -- if only they had someplace else to go.
Me? I'm Switzerland on the subject. I learned long ago that you can't legislate good family relationships or mandate that we love our relatives. And yes, there are people who dread Thanksgiving and Christmas because of the close proximity it puts them to relatives with whom they share nothing except maybe some DNA. I don't sit in judgment of those people and don't think others should either.
I also don't think that everyone necessarily minds working on holidays. When I was single and childless, I always volunteered to work the holiday shifts in my old New Jersey newsroom believing that in doing so, my married co-workers would be able to spend the holiday with their families. I always had plenty of friends who invited me to their celebrations, but because I liked the extra holiday pay, I chose to work instead. For me, it was financial. But it was also kind of fun.
Those of us who worked Thanksgiving in the newsroom always held an office potluck and ate with gusto. I remember making my rounds of police check calls and having every desk sergeant be in a happier-than-usual mood, you know the kind that comes with a "we're all in this together" attitude. My grizzly editor used to say that working the holidays "beats being home with the in-laws," and one married co-worker lamented how unfair it was that the unmarried staff got to work both Thanksgiving and Christmas while he was forced to break bread with his far-to-his-political-right family and invariably wind up arguing about the death penalty or the right of gays to marry. So my point is, maybe we shouldn't rush to assume that the Macy's and Kohl's workers are putting in hours on Thanksgiving because of a gun held to their heads.
Once I married and my kids came along, I stopped volunteering to work on holidays. I love cooking up a storm and entertaining and our home is where holidays are generally spent. If told to work on the holidays now, I wouldn't like it. But that's just my choice. And I also don't assume that every retail worker at Macy's and Kohl's would rather be gathered around their holiday table instead of behind the cash register.
We all make choices and if some overtime pay is involved, why not let these retail workers choose for themselves? My guess is that plenty of them will line up for the holiday shift and they don't need the public to threaten to boycott their employers to protect a day off they may not want.
As for whether you will be among those shopping on Thanksgiving, that's totally your choice as well. But if you think there is some higher moral ground in shaming people out of stores, well, I can only assume you haven't met Uncle Ted.