Boycotting Black Friday

Only three more days until the Silly Shopping Season officially gets underway, when people flock to stores to purchase socks, ties, hats and other “stuff” that can be returned on the day after the Silly Season ends.

Or, should we say, only two more days until the Silly Season gets underway, because the retail Gods in all of their wisdom decided this year to push Black Friday to Thanksgiving, opening their stores at 10 and 11 p.m. Thursday night.

When I began my first and only retail job, at J.C. Penney, 30 years ago this fall, holidays were sacred. If we couldn’t count on anything else in retail, we could at least count on spending time with our families on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That, unfortunately, is something people working in retail can no longer count on.

“But,” you say, “they don’t have to be to work until that night.”

Wrong, most retail employees don’t just show up when the doors open, they typically have to be at work a couple hours ahead of time to stock and do inventory, especially before such a huge event as Black “Friday,” meaning people who work in a store that is opening at 10 p.m. will have to report to work by 6 or 7 p.m., which means they also had to presumably sleep before coming in.

Doesn’t leave much time with their families.

Why are the stores doing this? “It’s what the public wants,” said an exec with one Big Box retailer.


One Target employee even began an online petition asking the giant retailer to allow their employees to spend time with their families. Many other employees have not joined the effort, saying they fear retribution.

Still others said they are “just lucky in this economy to have a job.”

Seems like the old story of Scrooge vs. Bob Cratchit again. Where’s the Occupy Movement when you need them?

Dale and I typically don’t celebrate anymore with anyone here at Our Little House, but 30 years ago, when I worked retail, I don’t have to wonder what my mother would have said had J.C. Penney decided I had to work on Thanksgiving.

My dad, who worked for the railroad, wasn’t even allowed to sign up for voluntary overtime on holidays.

“Holidays,”  my mother would say, “are for family.”

I’m not a Black Friday shopper and never have been, but if I were, I would be boycotting the Big Box retailers who worship the Green God and instead, I would be heading out on Small Business Saturday to do my shopping.

Oh, wait, I will be doing that anyway. We don’t have a large Christmas list anymore, but the people who are still on mine will be getting something from a local business, one that still respects the rights of its workers to spend holidays with family and not make them feel lucky they have a job by forcing them to work on Thanksgiving.

What do you make of Black Friday actually starting on Thanksgiving this year?  

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54 Responses

  1. kurlrykue says:

    My adult kids wanted to go to the outlets in Pigeon Forge, TN. 1st time Black Friday shopping for me. Surprised not crowded! I went to my favorite backpacking store local owned. Bought me a new hammock. Kids wanted me to buy new flat screen TV. I said why ours works fine and we don’t have cable. Said we needed an IPad. Why I have a laptop from 04 works fine. I don’t get it. I do know one thing this year I am going to NOT BUY that tacky wrapping paper that won’t burn in my wood stove. I am wrapping all my presents in brown packing paper wrapped in twine with pines cones, rosemary & sage from my property.

  2. Richard says:

    My wife and I spent “Black Friday”at a festival in Elm Mott,Texas called Homestead Heritage.They show city slickers how they hand make soap,candles,furniture,quilts,clothes and just about every thing else they need.They also give classes during the year on their handy work and sustainable farming.They have their festival thanksgiving week end and have a great web site.

  3. Jane Boursaw says:

    I’ve made a habit of boycotting Black Friday up to now, but actually went out and bought a few things this year. I’ll call it work-related, since it was mostly deals on DVDs!

  4. sarah henry says:

    On my way to dance class on TG morning I passed a Best Buy in San Francisco. There were tents already set up — this was about 10 am on Thursday — like some kind of “Occupy Best Buy” encampment.

    How depressing is that?

    • Kerri says:

      Very depressing, Sarah. I saw a cartoon on a similar theme. It had some people with tents and it said something like, “Occupy Movement? We’re not occupying anything, we’re waiting for Black Friday!” 🙁

  5. Kim says:

    I’m not doing Black Friday, unless it’s online. It has always sounded like hell to me.

    I thought I was going to have to, because we need a new washer and dryer and I thought I’d save $600 by going to Sears at 4am on Friday morning. Ugh. Then I found a set on “early Black Friday sale” last weekend somewhere else, slightly cheaper.

    At least half the joy I felt in scoring the bargain was knowing that I wasn’t going to be huddled in a line in the cold with the lunatics, hoping I’d be able to get what I needed.

    I’ve been buying local gifts as I came across them for months. Not all our giftgiving will be local and/or handmade, but a great deal more of it will be this year– and in years to come. It’s really not that hard to do.

  6. Sheryl M says:

    We’ve never shopped on a black Friday. If I did shop, it certainly wouldnt be at 4 a.m. Getting up in the middle of the night seems like a good way to ruin the holiday.
    Last night DH commented that all the things for sale in the BF ads looked like “junky stuff” to him. I guess you hit a certain age – acquiring things loses its bling.

    • Kerri says:

      I agree Sheryl. There comes a point in your life where more stuff just means more to dust or otherwise deal with. It’s so freeing not to be captivated by it any longer!

  7. Kerry Dexter says:

    I don’t mind seeing decorations go up early — I just take it as preparation of the celebration, you know. we make almost all of our holiday gifts, food or photographs mainly, and have what we need for most of that on hand already. we will probably spend the day after Thanksgiving working on those gifts, I think.

  8. Olivia says:

    As you know, I live in Canada where Thanksgiving is in early October and Black Friday is unheard of – or was, until this year. I’m sure PEI, where I live, still has not heard of it but in super-consumer American wannabe southern Ontario (where I currently am, with my daughter, waiting for her baby to be born), for the first time EVER, that I am aware of, WalMart is advertising Black Friday. It’s a Friday-Sunday sale but it will be during regular shopping hours.

    I am NOT impressed.

    Thank goodness I live in PEI!

  9. Frugal Kiwi says:

    When I moved to New Zealand, I was amazed to see Christmas hours in one mall. They advertised being open late…all the way until 7pm! Sure there were later hours in other malls and closer to Chrismas, but that alerted me to how much different life COULD be.

  10. Susan says:

    I admit I shopped at J.C. Penney last Black Friday because we were visiting my boyfriend’s family and I’d forgotten to bring a nice dress for his sister’s rehearsal dinner (obviously I remembered a dress for her wedding but those pre-wedding dinners trip me up). It wasn’t as crowded as I’d expected and I got a nice dress but I’m skipping Black Friday this year because frankly the only people getting amazing deals are the ones who camp out beforehand and I’m not willing to do that. Retailers offer tons of deals leading up to the holidays so Black Friday isn’t your only opportunity. I love the idea of Small Business Saturday, too.

  11. Sheryl says:

    Not a big Black Friday fan here; never have participated. In fact, I say bah humbug to the whole idea of it. I think gift giving is way overrated and is a forced, commercialized experience rather than one of true giving.

    • Kerri says:

      I agree, Sheryl. When people are randomly grabbing gloves and ties or buying a Chia Pet because they just don’t know what to give someone, it becomes an act of obligation, not giving.

  12. Alisa Bowman says:

    Someone asked me today if I was ready for the holidays. She asked twice. I told her I had nothing to be ready for. I hardly buy anything, except for the little kids. When adults give me gifts, I don’t reciprocate. Fine if other people want this to be a commercial holiday, but it’s not for me. For me, giving is something that happens year round and doesn’t require someone to stand in line to return it.

  13. judy stock says:

    So glad you wrote this post. I think I only did Black Friday once and that was enough for the rest of my life. Never doing that again. But to start it Thanksgiving evening is just ridiculous!
    We don’t need “more things.” Besides all the things are made in China and break almost as soon as you bring them home.

  14. Alexandra says:

    Commercialism! I’m hoping more people will react as you do. I never go shopping on Black Friday, with the exception of shopping online last year to take advantage of a lower membership cost for some writing courses at Grub Street, and I think it’s awful if the craziness begins on Thanksgiving this year. Not good.

  15. heather says:

    I also hate this year’s shopping hours and. If anyone had asked us it is NOT what the people want. I also worked retail for many years and it is no fun to be working during the hours you normally sleep.

    This is one reason I like Nordstrom. The do not play this stupid game.

    • Kerri says:

      I’ve never shopped Nordstrom, but they do have a reputation for good customer service and employment that is geared toward their associates and their families.

  16. Have you seen that some stores are actually publicizing the fact that they’re NOT opening early for Black Friday? Cool, huh? I much prefer shopping online anymore instead of going to the store.

  17. NoPotCooking says:

    I’m annoyed by this as well. I am not a Black Friday shopper either, unless there’s something great online (and that’s not usually until Monday anyhow). I don’t know why sales must start before dawn.

    I will say though that my husband worked plenty of holidays when he was a hotel manager. He always worked Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s just so that he could get Christmas Day off. It was hard, but we got through it.

    • Kerri says:

      As I said in a previous comment, there are industries that cannot shut down for the holidays and most of those places even rotate so people don’t have to work the same ones over and over (unless they volunteer). The hotel industry, is unfortunately another. While my dad had to work in his early career with the railroad, he didn’t have to once he gained seniority. It’s something you live with if you choose a profession that is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

      • Kerry Dexter says:

        I have worked in both television and radio, neither of which shut down for holiday time. In radio I was on air, and I did think about it as a fine opportunity to wish everyone in town — across the corners of three states actually — a happy Christmas. In television I was behind the scenes as producer, and eventually was able to negotiate double time pay for my crew for Christmas and Thanksgiving. still a challenge to staff on those days (we were all freelancers) but a small recognition for those who could be there.

        • Kerri says:

          I’ve never been a part of the staff of a newsroom during the holiday season (wonder how that worked out!?) but I’ve had to work the more “insignificant” holidays. It’s great you were able to get double time!

  18. When I worked retail in college, I got extra pay (time and 1/2, I think) if I worked holidays … but back then … it mostly meant ones like Independence Day, Memorial Day, etc.

    I thought the 5-6am openings were bad, but this night before thing? Sheesh!

    We’ve cut WAY back on our gift list this year, and I’m going to do my best to buy ONLY from local, small biz. We’ll see how it goes. I do have one tween who probably would NOT be keen on clothes from a smaller retailer.

  19. The last place I have EVER wanted to be on the day after Thanksgiving is at some crowded mall full of frenzied bargain hunters and crazed Christmas shoppers. NO thank you! I have never had any desire to take part in this annual buying spree. But I know people who actually consider it a “fun” part of the holiday and make their way to some God forsaken parking lot at three in the morning to sleep in their car until the stores open. Sounds festive.

    In recent years, I have moved more and more to online shopping in order to avoid malls and box stores. They suck the Christmas spirit right out of me as people bustle and bump each other jockeying for position at the bargain sweater rack or racing to grab the last WII on the shelf. It’s a complete anti-Christmas experience for me.

    Our Christmas list has been shrinking for the past few years as our daughters are grown and we only have a few family and friends to buy for. I love being able to spend time sitting by my Christmas tree, reading a book as snow falls softly outside my window, instead of cruising mall parking lots hoping to find a spot that isn’t six miles away from the stores. And I agree with you on making people work brutal hours over a holiday, it sucks.

    • Kerri says:

      I’ve really always hated the whole mall thing, Kathleen. A few months ago, we found ourselves in the mall 2 hours away waiting for Dale’s glasses to get done. We realized it had been YEARS since we were in a mall. We enjoyed walking around it (no where near the holidays) but just 3-4 months later when I went to get my glasses, we didn’t find the same experience. We just wanted OUT! I can’t imagine being anywhere near a mall on Black Friday.

      • They depress the hell out of me, or I should say they depress the Christmas out of me. I can go along in life being perfectly happy with what we have (and what we don’t have.) Then I step into a mall and suddenly feel like my clothes are outdated, our furniture shabby and our electronics woefully inadequate. I sometimes think it would be easier if family and friends lined up across from each other on Christmas, and then just start throwing money at each other. It would be easier and probably even more fun!

        • Kerri says:

          The mall, or stores in general, have never affected me like that, Kathleen. I guess that’s because we don’t make changes often around our house. I’m not into fashion and don’t buy clothes because of it, I buy them because they are comfortable and make me happy. I wore a Christmas sweater and a pair of pants last night to the ballet that I purchased I know somewhere around 1996. Our furniture is the same way. As long as we meld to it and it is still comfortable (of course, I wouldn’t want it to have holes), but we don’t go for the latest fashion and what the stores are selling just doesn’t faze me at all. I recognize that when we sold our house in KC some people might have thought the furniture stuck in the 80s, but I’ve never seen the point of buying new to keep up with fashion, either in dress or decor. But I agree, sometimes people should just forget all of the pretense and just spend time, instead of money, on each other.

  20. Donna Hull says:

    Local businesses really need our patronage during the holidays and beyond.

  21. mat says:

    I thought Black Friday was bad when the stores opened at 6AM on, you know, FRIDAY. Around here, it seems like everything opens at midnight instead.

    Honestly, I don’t know what to think. On one hand, stores are totally pandering to the “gotta have it” masses of sheep and the whole thing is just…well, “mess” is the nicest word I can think of.

    On the other hand, retailers are hurting, people need jobs–need to work, and so it’s kind of win-win. Hopefully these employee’s will be making holiday pay to soften the blow and make it worth their while.
    Very unfortunately, many people will need to make the choice between time spent with their family and putting food on that family’s table. I’m not talking “forsake to afford a vacation”, I’m talking “forsake family to buy a turkey”.

    • Kerri says:

      I think there would be plenty of work hours to be had if they held off for 6-8 hours and instead, opened on Friday morning, Mat. I don’t like the idea of people forgoing their holidays because they have to put food on the table and their employers are presenting no other choice. Oftentimes, Black Friday is not an option in retail, just like Christmas Eve, they need all hands on deck, so to speak. Those days were never optional where I worked. At least that’s the way it was 30 years ago, and I’m assuming most employees will not be given the option to work or not on Thursday night. Life is so short. It is about friends and family and those memories. There were times I really didn’t like my mother’s demands that we all be together on the holidays (especially as a teenager), but now I am so grateful for those special days. Those will last much longer than the memories of the movies or whatever I wanted to go and do instead, and they are now impossible to repeat. I just feel for these people, most of whom are making minimum wage (so even if they make double time that’s what, $15 an hour?) and they are foregoing those memories to scrape by. It’s sad and our society is sad for letting it happen.

      • mat says:

        I hate that idea too, but it doesn’t make it any less real. My mother-in-law is grateful to have found a full-time job in retail–making maybe 2/3 what she was making in manufacturing 3 years ago. I bet she’d jump at the chance to make some holiday pay, even if it meant she needed to cut Thanksgiving dinner short or forgo it completely. People gotta scratch out a living, you know? It sucks, but it’s reality.

        • Kerri says:

          Yes, we know all about scratching out a living here, particularly after Dale’s 18 months of un and underemployment. It’s too bad your mother in law would have to miss time with her family on a holiday. Those memories are priceless and I’m not sure would be worth the $150 (10 hours, $15 an hour) gross.

  22. Steph Auteri says:

    I once worked all of Thanksgiving (day and night), not at a retail shop but at a newspaper. I was happy for the OT pay. And being away from my family didn’t bother me. We’re close, and we make time for each other throughout the year.

    Still, it should be a choice. The fact that there are those who do it because they “fear retribution”… shame on those employers!

    As for Black Friday in general… blech!

    • Kerri says:

      Steph, as an old newspaper journalist myself, I have since worked a few holidays. Any newsroom has a rotating schedule, I think. There are some industries, such as the news, that have to staff on holidays. Retail, not one of them, I don’t believe. I’m with you, blech on the whole Black Friday concept.

  23. Sandy says:

    I do not like the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving. Our local K-Mart has for a number of years opened on the Thanksgiving. I assume they get a fair number of shoppers otherwise they probably wouldn’t be opening.

    I do not plan to do any shopping that day and will do limited shopping as it is. Since I make the majority of my gifts I feel no pressure at all to get out and into any mass shopping frenzy. I’ve been buying my supplies for several weeks on sale, discounted, etc. I’m all set to do a little crafting on Thurs and Fri.

    I’ve found less shopping = less impulse spending = less stres = a happy me.

    Enjoy your time and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  24. V Schoenwald says:

    One of the reasons I am glad I am retired from retail.
    My mother owned a needlework/quilt shop in town here for 40+ years. I came aboard and was with her about 18 yrs in the shop, and seeing such a slip into the worshipping of the green god, by the big box retailers that moved into our area and change the working enviroment for all of us.
    It got to where our customers wanted us there on the Thanksgiving holiday, not to spend any money, but just to show the relatives the shop. We opened on Friday, just like we always did, and as the years progressed, people became more and more demanding, until we closed the shop and retired from the public, which I will say, I am glad we did.
    I have no family to do Christmas and my parents have everything, so I just do dinners and eat ourselves silly and enjoy movies.
    I do homemade gifts such as jellies, breads, and salsas.
    I personally cannot believe how everyone is trying to outdo the other, even in this economy where there is no money to be had, but boy we sure have to have the toys, (cell phones, gaming stations,etc) that are beyond my money.
    And its so sad that it seems that even in this economy, everyone is trying to buy happiness, that spending money on something or someone will make it all better. And it shows on the tv commercials, if you buy this or a new car that the world will be a whole lot better if you do.
    I am also sick of seeing Christmas in the stores so early. This year, I was seeing Christmas 2 weeks before Halloween. Pleeeease………

    • Kerri says:

      I know, I’ve joked that one of these days, they will just leave the Christmas decor up year around! I truly believe our society has slipeed so badly that we forget the meaning.