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IT SEEMS TRITE these days to ask, "Is nothing sacred?" Very little is. But sometimes we just have to stop, consider the bigger picture, and wonder if we're crossing a line that needn't be crossed. Let the petitions of protest by workers and the no-thank-yous by traditional shoppers commence as Black Friday extends backward even further into Thanksgiving Day.
Several major retailers have announced that they'll open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving to get a head start on Black Friday. Among the big-box gun-jumpers: Toys R Us, Sears, and Walmart. Target plans to open at 9 p.m. Kmart says it will be offering "doorbuster" $200 HD televisions starting at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
"Our customers kept telling us they wanted more flexible Black Friday shopping hours," said Brian Hanover, a spokesman for Sears. Really? Maybe it's actually the other way around--retailers knowing that "if we open our doors, they will come."
This could be one of those turkey-or-egg debates, but retailers do acknowledge that this is a way to capitalize even more on the Black Friday shopping phenomenon, when shoppers take on a well-documented rabid-dog mentality in a frantic search for the year's best bargains. "Black Friday" is defined as the day of the year when stores turn the corner from red ink to black.
But, honestly, consider what is gained and lost here. Retailers have a whole month between Thanksgiving and Christmas and can set their prices at Black Friday levels whenever they want for as long as they please.
Also, do shoppers really need to drop the drumstick and rush into a retail riot? If they feel they must--to get out of the house or to escape family chit-chat or the televised football marathon--can't they take in a movie or drive around looking for Christmas-light early birds?
The kicked-in-the-giblet party here is the poor store employee who would love to spend Thanksgiving savoring the meal and the day, creating the Norman Rockwell memories that have defined this purely American holiday for centuries. Once again, the ill-paid and powerless get the short end of the wishbone.
No way around it: This is an ugly precedent that big retailers are now setting. They need to do some serious soul-searching before continuing to inflict such almighty-dollar nonsense on their workers and damaging a sacred American tradition.