There are two very different viewpoints on the whole idea of retail stores being open on Thanksgiving. As you might have guessed from the title of this post, I happen to fall on the "no retail on Thanksgiving" side of things.
As I was watching people talk about this subject on social media, I realized that I apparently had pretty strong feelings about it, and I wasn't sure why.
I mean... I know there are a lot of jobs which are always at work - 365 days a year. Nurses and Firefighters and Security guards, for instance. And for as long as I can remember movie theaters have been open on Thanksgiving, as well as some restaurants, and of course places like hotels and 24/7 customer service phone lines are always open. And grocery stores are usually open for at least part of the day. (I did a last-minute back-up dessert dash to the store today, in fact.)
So why is retail so different in my mind?
I think that my reasons have two sources.
The first source is the fact that I grew up working in my family pharmacy in a small town. The store was open six days a week, year-round. And my dad was there each of those six days. On Sundays, even though the store was closed, he'd almost always go into the store for a while after church. There were no days off.
I don't remember any Christmases which weren't interrupted by someone calling with a last-minute need for film or batteries. On Thanksgiving, there wasn't really anything that the drug store had that people would need, though. It was - typically - the one day in every year that the entire family could be together all day.
The other half of my anti-Thanksgiving-Day-retail stance is because, for a number of years as an adult, I worked retail in various malls. A number of those years, I worked in kitchen stores, where Thanksgiving is a huge business. Honestly, with all the people shopping for everything to make a Martha Stewart-style Thanksgiving dinner, it was kind of insane. We all needed the day off to recuperate.
Luckily, I got out of retail before Black Friday meant that stores were open all night. The worst I had to deal with was a year when we opened at midnight. The store had shoppers for about half an hour, then it was dead until about 8am. It picked up for about 4 hours, then was pretty much quiet the rest of the day. We honestly did not have enough staff - even with the seasonal ramp-up - to have a full complement of people in the store the whole time we were open, so the managers all had to work 10-hour shifts, with pretty much nothing to do. (For the record, if you've never experienced it, most malls are pretty much empty of shoppers from about noon until 5 on Black Friday - meaning that all of the shop workers are standing around with nothing to do, trying not to fall asleep after having gotten there at 6am, or earlier...)
I keep hearing people say things like "But there are people who really want the extra money they can make on Thanksgiving. They would rather make money than stay home." or "All those other people work on Thanksgiving, why is it different for people who work in stores?"
Here's the thing: For every one or two people who truly do want to work and make some extra money instead of being at home on Thanksgiving, there are 20 people who don't want to be there, but have been told that they either have to show up or be fired.
There is - at least in my experience - no "holiday pay" in retail. Unlike so many service industry workers who might get "time-and-a-half" for the holiday, retail workers simply get the "work today or don't work again" offer.
Maybe if the people who are actually on the front lines in retail were truly given a say on whether or not to work the day, I'd feel differently about it. But I can't imagine that the folks sitting in the corporate office being told "we might be missing sales" ever thought to actually ask their staff whether a true day off was important to them. (Even though most of those office types probably all check out early on Wednesday to spend a nice 4-day weekend at home with their own families.)
So... Anyway... I refuse to buy in to this whole "gotta get there early to get the stuff you don't need" mindset. And I don't imagine a time when I'll actually go shopping on Thanksgiving. I'd much rather spend as much of my day off as possible snuggled in on the couch with Christopher and the pup, secretly hoping that sales numbers tank so that all those corporate offices will reconsider giving their staffs a real day off next year.