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Tom Rosshirt
Tom Rosshirt
26 Apr 2013

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Carving Into Thanksgiving


In a euphoric victory for economic freedom in the United States, Walmart, Toys "R" Us, Sears, Target, Best Buy, Kohl's and Kmart overwhelmed the defenses and occupied the former territory of "The Archaic Tradition of Thanksgiving Day" this week — opening stores or starting sales as early as 8:00 p.m. on Thursday to give Americans several hours head start on their shopping for Christmas, which is 33 days away.

This year's store hours and sales were a bold advance over meek marketing practices of the past. In "the era of cowardly restraint," retailers would open at 6:00 a.m. on Friday. Then, for years, they timidly inched their hours closer to Thanksgiving Day, opening at 5 a.m., 4 a.m. and then 3 a.m. until some bolder retailers moved their opening right up to the border - midnight — and crouched there, assessing the defenses on the other side.

Sensing only soft resistance, Walmart and others launched an incursion last year — beginning their holiday sales late on Thanksgiving Day — and this year, the whole happy group of stores (big box, little box, jack-in-the-box) marched in after them.

This means, of course, that each store makes its employees give up their Thanksgiving. (Do you think they appreciate the symbolism?)

Last year, Anthony Hardwick, 29, a Target employee in Omaha, launched a protest petition after he learned he had to begin a 10-hour shift at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, which required him to sleep though the afternoon to be ready for his shift. He wasn't optimistic, though. He told the Washington Post: "The economy is bad and so our employer has us over a barrel."

The shoppers give up their Thanksgiving as well, of course. But that's what they want — according to the retailers, who (apparently) speak for the shoppers.

One spokesperson for Sears says: "Our customers kept telling us they wanted more flexible Black Friday shopping hours."

That sounds so loving. But if shoppers are on a tight Christmas budget, and the stores start offering deep discounts at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, does that give shoppers flexibility or take it away?

A spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation said: "Shoppers have shown us that they love wrapping up their Thanksgiving meals, grabbing their coats and going shopping."

She must mean that they love wrapping up their Thanksgiving meals in a baggie.

Last year, Javier Marin celebrated Thanksgiving by grabbing his coat and going to the mall at 4 p.m. on Wednesday so that he could be first in line 30 hours later to buy two TVs. He woke up Thanksgiving Day in a tent ... outside a Best Buy.

The fact that shoppers would wait so long in line was welcome proof for the National Retail Federation spokesperson, who claimed: "There are millions of people who want to shop on Thanksgiving Day."

Really? Start the deep discounts on Friday, and let's see how many millions want to shop on Thursday.

Last year, as he watched the centuries-old cultural protections around Thanksgiving start to give way, a Georgetown marketing professor warned: "This is just the beginning. Next year, we're likely to see everybody doing this ... The guys with the first opportunity to get to somebody's pocketbook are likely to take share away from their competitors."

In these accelerating times, it's hard to imagine any more urgent shortage than unhurried, unscheduled family time — and no season offers that time more than Thanksgiving. As we see this distinctly American tradition, more than 150 years older than the 4th of July, riddled and eroded by corporate profit-seeking, we'd be foolish not to reflect on how much our culture and traditions are now being shaped to accommodate whatever makes the most money for corporations.

What would it take to reverse this? A sense of priorities ... a conviction that, for at least one day, there is something more important than money. For human beings, this is obviously true. For corporations, it is false, which is more proof (in case you didn't know where this column was heading) that corporations are not people.

As long as we keep confusing the two, "We the People" will re-order our lives to serve corporations, rather than make them order their operations to serve us.

Merry Christmas Shopping.

Tom Rosshirt was a national security speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and a foreign affairs spokesman for Vice President Al Gore. Email him at To find out more about Tom Rosshirt and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



2 Comments | Post Comment
We don't partake in the madness, finding happiness and contentment lounging around with each other, enjoying the opportunity to spend unhurried, relaxed time together eating and drinking what we like, when we like, staying up if we feel like it, playing games or watching movies into the early morning hours and no errands to run that can't wait. Then again, we decided a long time ago that the best present we could give each other at the holidays is to actually be present with our families and friends. As for those who do shop, there are great bargains out there and it has to be extremely satisfying to save hundreds of $$ or finally be able to afford something you really want. But it seems to me, the big appeal is less wanting to shop on Thanksgiving or black Friday, and more the reckoning that for most it's a four day holiday Thurs-Sun which allows time to cook, eat, stand in lines, shop and get great deals, and still carve out a bit of time to spend with family, sleep in and/or relax before returning to work Mon.
Comment: #1
Posted by: morgan
Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:26 AM
Tom touches on the fact that its the spend happy people who are partly responsible for this early shopping, but mostly blames those damn corperations again. Always trying to make money. News flash: Thats why they exist. They are not people and they do things in order to make the most money possible. They have a responsibility to their shareholders (us) to do so. If people didn't want to shop eariler, the stores woulden't open eariler. If more families were like Morgans and put family time and giving thanks at a higher priority than getting great deals sooner, then stores would not open early and Wal-mart employees could have family time too. And in many areas there are plenty of low wage jobs. People aren't as over a barrel as they might think. Its "good jobs" that are lacking.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:15 AM
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