Thanksgiving vs. Capitalism vs Consumerism vs Labor vs….

Last year, Walmart, the store that will be named, but one I won’t shop at and try not to let my immediate family shop at, opened for Thanksgiving. I joined everyone in being upset by this. If I remember correctly, though, I was mostly worried about whether the employees would even get holiday/overtime pay – and not allowing unions, they could have gotten away with that, which is one of many reasons why I still believe we need unions. However, to be clear, Walmart did and does pay their Thanksgiving employees extra, which is something, anyway.

In the name of materialism, I’d just as soon that they would have stayed closed. This year, more stores are joining the fray. Lots of people are upset. A few people are tossing around Matt Walsh’s Huffington Post article about being part of the problem if we are someone who shops on Thanksgiving. Except… what exactly is the author descrying? His main point seems to be consumerism in general, that our nation is stuck on the idea that to be a good citizen, we must buy-buy-buy. Yes, this is most prevalent between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes, I agree with his issues about this. Yes, I agree with the many who say I don’t need to go Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving. Yes, I’d be happy if all retail stores closed on this day. And yes, this might be an overall problem in our culture as a whole.

But then he mentions feeling sorry for the poor single mother who has to work the cash register that day. I’m not saying I have no sympathy for that particular employee, but…

Will some of you go to movie after dinner – or even just before? A restaurant or a bar to watch the game? Stop for gas on the way home from grandmother’s house? Go bowling? (Sounds weird, right? This is a tradition for a family on my husband’s side!) Be thankful that the grocery store by your house stayed open all the way until 4:00pm?

Without a doubt, some of those places I mentioned employ far fewer people then the big retailers. And yes, I wish for everyone to not only have Thanksgiving off from work, but to also have it as a paid holiday.

I guess I ultimately am wondering what, exactly, it is that we are protesting. We often get muddled in our outrage and the message gets lost OR the action and consequence get lost. Privilege allows us to say “I’m not shopping on Thanksgiving,” and privilege allows us to follow through. Privilege can also make us forget about those who look forward to bonus pay by working on the holidays. I don’t ever shop at Walmart, and last year’s start to them opening on Thanksgiving did not suddenly change my mind. I don’t like how they do business, but more importantly, I don’t like how they treat their employees. Privilege allows me to make this decision, I know this. However, I’m hoping that I’m not entirely misguided in using my privilege to help share with everyone who asks (and might not ask) why I refuse to give them my business. I totally get that many people shop there because of the low prices (and may have to). I get why people work there (and may have to). I fully understand my privilege in this scenario. Better yet would be if I were to more actively campaign in favor of workers’ rights for Walmart employees. What I’m saying, though, is that however miniscule it is that Walmart doesn’t get my business, I’m trying to look at the bigger picture, and denying them any of my business at any time AND sharing with others why.

I’m not mad at retailers for opening on Thanksgiving. Maybe a little disappointed though. I’m actually rather surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. I’m not disappointed in people for wanting to shop that day. I might be disappointed if my own family members ditched our family celebration early to do so, though. It’s about focusing the message. What are we actually upset about with retailers being open on Thanksgiving?

I support one’s decision to not shop at major retailers on Thursday, but I also believe that if we are propagating this campaign, let’s be clear about our goals. Are we upset with consumerism as a whole? Then maybe the articles we share should focus on that and how we’d like to change it. Are we upset with retailers opening on the holiday? Then maybe we should boycott them for the entire holiday season, and not just Thursday, since not shopping on Thanksgiving has already been a part of our lifestyle. Tell people why you aren’t shopping at Target this year. Or Best Buy. Or wherever. If we are upset that anyone at all has to work (in a business setting) on this holiday, then we oughtn’t patronize any business on Thursday.

At the very least, whatever business we might stop in on Thanksgiving, perhaps we can remember to thank the employees who help us on a day that may or may not have them sacrificing a little something to do so.

And because I always like a little levity:

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4 Responses to Thanksgiving vs. Capitalism vs Consumerism vs Labor vs….

  1. There are two things that bother me about retailers being open on Thanksgiving. The first is when they stay open to try to make more money, and then tell their employees, “You must work on Thanksgiving; no, you cannot request the day off.” If they are going to remain open, employees should at least have the option of taking the day off (I won’t get into whether it should be a paid holiday). My second gripe is when stores start their Black Friday sales “early”, meaning on Thanksgiving, right at dinner time. This is a problem to me both for the employees who must work, and also for those families whose gatherings are ruined or cut short by members who want to shop on Thanksgiving instead of putting aside the time for family. Granted, these ‘shopaholics’ are the ones with the problem, but if the stores were closed, the temptation would not be there. As a society, we have already pushed family time and face-to-face interactions to the back burner. Shouldn’t we be able to say “not today” for one day of the year, both for our own families and for those people who would rather be with theirs instead of working?

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  2. tantemary says:

    Great song!! Just the lightness I needed as I start my holiday.

    One of the reasons I’m certain we will hit it off famously when we meet in person is a) your general awesomeness, actually; b) all the reasons we BOTH avoid Walmart; c) your understanding of privilege. The list is probably longer but that’s not the point 🙂

    I just stopped at a new grocery store near home today and noticed their hours on my way in; closed on Sundays. This resonates on reflection as I read your post. I would be okay with less of the world being open 24/7/365 but we probably won’t go backwards.

    Alas, our world just becomes increasingly 24/7/364 since Christmas still manages to shut down all but the most essential.

    Sorry for the long post! Please enjoy your holiday with your family; I’ll catch you on the flip side!

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  3. Jen (@JSQ79) says:

    I have several immediate family members who would be considered “working poor.” I’ll use one of them as an example. She works for Dollar General. She is a full time employee, a mom to 3 and in her spare time she is attending school to become a paralegal so that she can climb out of the hell that is being a member of the working poor class. She works insane hours, often without a single day off in the week, because her manager is always hiring and firing unreliable people, leaving them in the lurch. She does not make a living wage. She does not get sick time, paid holidays, vacation leave, or health insurance. Today she called me because she was up all night with an infected tooth. She’ll have to wait to get it pulled (not repaired, not replaced) tomorrow because she has to be at work. One side of her face is severely swollen, but she can’t get antibiotics because she hasn’t seen the dentist in 6 months (as if- she only goes to the dentist for an emergency, she has no insurance from her full time job and can’t afford cleanings) and she won’t go to a walk in clinic to get the antibiotics because she can’t afford to do both that and get the tooth pulled. It would be nice if she could spend all of Thanksgiving Day with her children (who she rarely gets to see with all of the work and the school) and her family, but she can’t. Because apparently people might need to buy shit from the dollar store on a holiday that supposed to be about family and about being thankful for what we already have. Who knows when her next full day off will be. Her company, which obviously doesn’t care about her at all, needs her, and she doesn’t have the luxury of choices. So that’s what I’m upset about. I suppose that is not a very cohesive goal statement, but to me it is personal, and it’s hard to be objective about it. I will not be patronizing any form of business on Thursday. I will be with my family, thankful I have the privilege.

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  4. ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) says:

    I was going to reply to these comments individually, but honestly, I just really value what y’all are sharing. What you’re saying is speaking to one of my main points. You are giving valid and specific opinions about why this all upsets you. Thank you – I really appreciate the dialogue.

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