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AND NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yesterday, Tina, who blogs at Life Is Good and who is responsible for me being able to make this:
... which was dinner Saturday night, consisting of grilled cheese sandwiches (and SpaghettiOs for me, with tomato soup for Sweetie), but not just any grilled cheese -- they were made the Tina's Life Is Good way, with fancy bread and kind of fancy cheese (because the cheese Tina suggested we use cost $ELEVEN DOLLARS ARE YOU KIDDING ME?)...
...ayway, I used Port Wine cheese spread and provolone, with sourdough bread. Sweetie had "American" cheese because she is a patriot.
THAT WHOLE INTRO IS ME BEING NICE because now Tina and I are officially in a feud, and Tina being a nice person, and it being early, it's a nice feud but still, it's a feud and I have to say this in the nicest most respectfulest sincerest, most glitteriest way possible:
ALMOST EVERYBODY IN AMERICA IS A HYPOCRITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (And so you should all shut up.)
See? I totally could have used the MEAN glitter and more exclamation points.
I also could have said "So you should all be quiet,"which would've been more polite but I felt I had to be forceful.
I am talking about, and asking you to shut up about, the ongoing constant rant about how Thanksgiving is being ruined by the fact that retailers open up on the holiday, and how that takes away from family time and how as a result America is going to slide off the edge of the ocean or Miley Cyrus is going to twerk on our turkey
(TWERKEY! (TM) coming soon from MTV and CostCo!)
or something like that.
Honestly, it's all so overblown and all so misplaced and all so completely...
That I get upset.
Let me list what I think are the most common arguments about how horrible it is for a Wal-Mart -- it's Wal-Mart that gets to everyone, right? Because they're evil, right? If they wouldn't open up we wouldn't care half as much, right? -- to be open on Thanksgiving:
1. It interferes with family time.
2. It emphasizes commercialism instead of holidays.
3. Those poor people who have to work on Thanksgiving! *sob*.
I'm getting a little overworked. Time for a cute picture break.
I call him "Pumpkiny Pete!"
Anyway, let's go with argument number one:
1. Opening stores on Thanksgiving totally inteferes with family time which means that retailers are evil! (Extra exclamation point for those who really mean it: ! ):
Let me start with: If you go to a store on Thanksgiving, you are interfering with family time, not the retailer. You can't possibly be arguing that the mere fact of a retailer being open forces you to go there, right?
One woman, whose letter I read online because news organizations know everyone but me eats this stuff up like a fourth slice of pumpkin pie (a recent HuffPo article played up a survey that said 70% of Americans dislike stores opening on Thanksgiving, while ignoring another poll that said only 49% dislike it, calling the results "similar." Which THEY ARE NOT), complained that stores were open and she was going to have to go because there were, like, totally good deals and she wanted to get stuff for her kids.
That is like when your brother used to grab your arm, swing it into your face, and say "Why are you hitting yourself?"
Okay, it's nothing like that but I'm still a little mad about that. Stupid Bill. Anyway, the point is, why is it the retailers' fault that you want to go out and save money on presents? Yes, yes, money is tight. Believe me, I get that as much as anyone. I get most of my money for the entire year on January 1 -- so Xmas is annually a time of trying to decide how much we can stretch out the tiny amount of money remaining in our budget because we went a little overboard on such luxuries as "fixing our exploded garage door" or "paying for Mr Bunches' teeth to be pulled out after he fell off the monkey bars."
But if I make the choice to get up off the couch, awkwardly button my pants over my distended belly
and go out to make sure that Mr Bunches gets that Imaginext DC Superfriends Fortress Of Solitude Now Featuring Battle Armor Superman (I'm just guessing that exists and also why does Superman need battle armor? Then again, why wouldn't he wear it? I'm not taking a stand either way), that's my fault.
Not Imaginext's, not the retailers, not even Mr Bunches' fault. Well, a little him, but he's cute, so okay.
The fact that something is available doesn't mean you have to go. Strip clubs are open on Thanksgiving. Have you found yourself drawn to them like Richard Dreyfus to that mountain?
I didn't think so. Also, the Homer clip was funnier than a Close Encounters outtake.
Also, consider this: What is family time?
A few years back, Sweetie and I decided to go out to a midnight sale at Wal-Mart. They had these play tents shaped like dragons (more like frogs, as it turns out, but I don't hold a grudge.*)(*I totally do) that were marked down to some amount of money that essentially meant the price was inconsequential, and that's me saying that: I hesitate to pay $0.99 for a song. This was obviously quite a deal. So we had The Boy stay late after Thanksgiving dinner ("Hey, The Boy: do you want unfettered access to a houseful of snacks and leftover turkey while also having free reign to watch any channel you want on cable?" That offer sold itself) and Sweetie and I ventured out at about 11:30 to the local store, and there we found roughly every single person in the Western Hemisphere waiting to get good deals. We got inside, and it turned out we were pretty much the only people there for Frog Tents (imagine!) but everyone was very polite and everyone was in a good mood and when we ended up waiting over an hour to check out, winding our way through the store, we were stuck in between two groups, one a mother/daughter team and one a husband/wife team like us, and we talked with them and they talked with each other (mostly about Zhu Zhu pets, as I recall) and everyone seemed to have a pretty good time.
That's actually a pretty good memory; Sweetie and I got a lot of time to spend together and talk, and we drove around our dark snow-covered city and saw some lights and then we went home and nestled into our beds, about 2 a.m., to sleep late the next day, secure in the knowledge that Mr F would have a Frog Dragon Tent he would use roughly once every 300 days.
The point is: That, too, is family time. I have my family over to watch football games -- boy will I get on that in a minute -- and we take the family to the zoo and to amusement parks and on cookouts and all that, so "family time" is what you make of it. When my mom was dying, "family time" was sitting in her hospital room. If you love your family, you can love them even away from the kitchen table.
Besides, is Thanksgiving the only day you can spend with your family?
If so, then perhaps you should spend it not shopping -- even if you miss out on those deals. If not, then why complain? Thanksgiving is an extra day to see your family. Spend it how you want, and let others spend (aha! It's a shopping pun!) the day how they want.
2. Yeah but you are kind of being a bit of a jerk and also how about emphasizing commercialism over holidays and how those workers have to work which is kind of the same thing? Can you tackle THAT, Mr Glitterfontpants?
I saw the other day that the local Dollar Store -- at which I have spent an amount that greatly exceeds the National Debt, including this past weekend when we bought $15 worth of materials to make a Bubble Wrap Cactus, which was one of our craft projects during Saturday when I spent time with my family even though there wasn't a Sweet Potato in sight -- that they are open on Thanksgiving from 8-4.
I drove yesterday by a restaurant that is family owned, called the "Parkway Family Restaurant" and saw that their sign said "Open on Thanksgiving."
And in both cases I thought "I should probably go buy something at that place on Thanksgiving," which means (as we already knew) I am part of the problem, only I see it as being more part of the solution.
Anyone who complains about a business -- ANY business, but let's face it everyone's mostly mad about Wal-Mart -- being open on Thanksgiving ought to ask themselves this:
Why do you suppose they are open on Thanksgiving?
It's not because they are evil. Unless you think the "Parkway Family Restaurant" is owned by the Evil Galactic Overlord.
"Would you like some appetizers before I throw you into the fire pit?"
No, retailers open up because they need to.
"Black Friday," remember, got its name because that is the day that retailers traditionally made enough money to show a profit for the year. Again, I can relate: I will not know how much money I will be paid this year until December 31. So every day I look at the books and try to figure out if my family will need to buy dinner from the Dollar Store next year.
Thanksgiving is the kickoff to the holiday season, and that is so strong an incentive for people to buy that simply moving Thanksgiving up a week can help end a recession. I know that sounds crazy but it's been done, and worked, in the past.
Now, let's say you are Retailer A. Let's say you REALLY REALLY love Thanksgiving and don't want to get up and go to work. But there's also Retailer B in town and she gets a lot of customers on Black Friday -- and you could make more money, provide better for your family and give health care to your workers, etc., if you just got some of those customers.
So you decide one year to open up at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, and all B's customers come to you. Next year, B opens at 5.
See where this is heading?
You and B can't even agree not to open early, first because that would be against antitrust regulations, but second because opening at the same time simply puts you back to where neither of you is doing great.
Retailers who open on Thanksgiving are like movie theaters (who also open on Thanksgiving and this year Sweetie is taking Mr Bunches to a movie to celebrate Thanksgiving/movies while Mr F and I stay home and play-wrestle/cook): they are simply trying to make money, which is how companies stay in business. Here is an actual thing I say to my actual clients/customers who want a discount or free consultation or otherwise don't want to pay:
"I would very much like to help you out. I got into this business because I like helping people. But I have five kids and a wife, and 37 employees each of whom has kids and wives and husbands, and they are counting on me to get paid, or I can't give them money at the end of the week."
THAT is why people open on Thanksgiving: not because they are greedy, but because if they don't make money they can't pay their employees and they will go out of business.
Ask a Wal-Mart employee this question: "Do you want to work on Thanksgiving?" and they will say "No."
Ask them this question: "Do you want to work on Thanksgiving if doing so means that you will still have a job, and hence a paycheck, for the coming year, the alternative being unemployment?" and I bet the answer will be different.
If a retailer near you is open for business on Thanksgiving, that's likely because they need to be to earn money to pay their own bills. Rather than hating them, you should do what I do: Consider patronizing them. If not on Thanksgiving, maybe some other day. It'd be nice, wouldn't it, if they didn't have to work on Thanksgiving to make a living?
Not working on Thanksgiving is a luxury; it will be a great day when we realize we are rich enough as a country to allow almost everyone to do that. But we haven't reached that point, yet, and so punishing people for having to work (and having to make their employees work) is wrongheaded and counterproductive.
3. For added measure, don't you now agree that you're being kind of hypocritical in who you complain about? No? Let me explain how you are hypocritical, dear reader(s?):
There are no laws prohibiting companies from being open on Thanksgiving -- and there shouldn't be, because this is America -- and to the extent that any laws are being passed (such as the one where a congressman wants to mandate triple-time for holiday pay) they target one sector: Big Retail.
Nobody is complaining, so far as I can tell, that some businesses are open and others are not. For example, nobody is complaining that news organizations will make their people work on Thanksgiving, or that NASA keeps its staffers on that day, or that many government workers and soldiers still have to report for duty.
Surprisingly, in a recent poll, 100% of men said "This business NEEDS to open on Thanksgiving."
Have you thought of those people? Probably not. And the usual answer I get when I bring that kind of thing up is "Well, those people chose their occupations and/or are highly paid." About which I say: BUNK, and also BUNK, TOO.
While I'm sure that many people who work in retail had few other options open to them -- at least entry-level, retail is the among the last of the unskilled, no degree required jobs -- many other people did not "choose" their occupations any more than retail employees did.
Soldiers, for example. About 1/2 of all officers in the military do not hold advanced degrees, and while 6% of enlisted soldiers had degrees about high school level. Recruits overwhelmingly came from middle class and lower middle class families. (Source.)
Let's see how that compares to demographics of retail employees, who make up only about 10% of the workforce anyway (so only about 1 in 10 people will have to work on Thanksgiving, making it not worthy of this national outrage.)
First off, 1 in 4 retail workers is between 16 and 24. My teenagers were never too crazy about spending time with the family, and I don't think many protesters are complaining that a surly teen can't sit at the table sulking because we made them turn off "Call of Duty V: Pilgrim Ops" and come to the table to talk to MeeMaw.
"Mashed potatoes are so bourgeoisie, Pop Pop."
Of the non-teen workers, 50% have education beyond high school; 38% had at least a high school diploma, so only 12% had no degree or diploma. Which means that retail workers compare, demographically, to soldiers quite well.
The median pay for retail workers was $20,000-$25,000 depending on the job. That' s a misleading statistic, of course, as all medians are. It means that 1/2 of all retail workers make less than $20,000 -- but 1/3 to 1/2 of retail workers are part-time (some involuntarily so), which skews the statistics. (Retail statistics courtesy of this report.)
What separates soldiers and retailers are two things. Well, three, if you count the whole "getting shot at by people who hate you/being blown up by IEDs" which I think counts a lot, but soldiers also get moved around more and spend time away from families -- far more than retailers, far more than just Thanksgiving -- and get slightly more pay and many more benefits. Your average soldier earns only $29,000 per year, but gets another $22,000 in benefits such as housing and food allowances.
If soldiers chose their occupation, then so did retailers: they have about the same level of education and come from similar demographic backgrounds; but people who go into retail (excluding those who tried the military and were rejected) made the decision for their own reasons -- such as the aforementioned shooting/IEDs.
So why not complain that soldiers don't get to come home on Thanksgiving? Even if we don't call home active duty troops and support staff from war zones, why do supply sergeants in Fort Wherever have to go in to work that day?
Consider then other workers who have to go in. Did you know there are Broadway shows being performed on Thanksgiving? Are you protesting those? There are, and you are not. And before you say "Well, those actors opted for their careers they want to perform," let's remember that when you have a newscast showing the Macy's Parade and the Broadway show doing the umpteenth performance of Cats, you also have low-paid technicians and staffers working those shows.
Or, to put it another way: Someone has to sell popcorn at intermissions at those Broadway shows, and that person is not getting $40,000,000 per year.
Where are the congresspeople demanding triple time for extras in A Chorus Line?
Congress has determined this issue needs MUCH MORE STUDY.
Let's really consider how bad Americans hurt other Americans who work on Thanksgiving while also being hypocritical: FOOTBALL!
Every year, the NFL now puts on three games on Thanksgiving, games people await so eagerly they were already talking about them, in our office, last week.
For every high-priced player on the field (players who have to work Thanksgiving) there are also linesmen, referees, announcers, camera guys, newspaper reporters, photographers, cheerleaders (who often are unpaid), concession stand workers, ushers, parking lot attendants, traffic cops, and a hundred other people who have to man the various infrastructures that beam that game into your living room where you sit with your family watching a production put on by people who could not sit with their families.
The average broadcast technician earns $43,000 per year. Camera operators on average get $37,000 per year. Production assistants, $28,000. The highest level of reporter -- the guys who get to go to the big games -- gets $51,000 per year. (Source for all that.)
Hundreds of different workers will man the staff at Cowboys Stadium on Thanksgiving Day. (Source.) In order to let you watch Tony Romo choke in a big game, those workers will make $18,000 a year if they tear your ticket, $19,000 a year if they sell you a commemorative t-shirt, $50,000 a year to hear you bitch about how expensive hot dogs are at the game and sell you one anyway, but 1/2 that -- $29,000 a year-- if they are the emergency medical technician there to save your life if you choke on the hot dog. The people who wipe up all the stadium sauce, beer, and barf after the game get $22,000 a year to spend Thanksgiving evening picking up after the fans of America's Team.
AND THEY DO THAT BECAUSE YOU WATCH THE GAME.
If you didn't watch, they wouldn't play the game and those poor custodians wouldn't be there until late at night cleaning up. If they work the night game on the NFL Network, the custodians might well have to leave their family dinner at 3 or 4 and then work until 3 a.m. picking up the trash left behind by the live audience for the game you wanted to watch.
So maybe, instead of bemoaning the fact that Wal-Mart is open at four and how it cuts into your family time, you take a moment to understand not just how the economy works, but your part in the grander scheme of things.
Those people who work on Thanksgiving help earn wages which help buy other goods and services which help keep other people employed. It's the economy, stupid. And while you may object to low-wage employers like Wal-Mart "profiteering" (quotes intentional, and heavily sarcastic) off Thanksgiving, you no doubt have MANY items that you bought from low-wage purveyors of goods. Own any Apple stuff? Welcome to the dark side..
LOTS of people have to work on Thanksgiving. Some of them seem more necessary than others, but almost every single person who is forced to work on Thanksgiving is being forced to do that in order to help keep the company they work for running, and hence paying that person to work there and hence making it possible that the person who has to work can put food on their table, whenever they actually eat their Thanksgiving dinner.
It's not a shame, at all, that people work on Thanksgiving. The real shame is that the people who work on Thanksgiving -- be they Wal-Mart greeters, ushers on Broadway, NASA workers* (*astronauts earn $60,000-$71,000 per year), stadium custodians, or the staff at the Parkway Family Restaurant-- those people don't earn very much money. But that's for a different day and a different argument; you won't fix low wages by writing paeans to days gone by when people sat at home peacefully and ate turkey. (I, as an employer, have no employees who do not get benefits and earn more than minimum wage. They all get Thanksgiving off.)
You can make things better on Thanksgiving, but not by simply sitting around complaining. You could, for example, tell your retailers and other businesses that you will gladly patronize their store the Wednesday before if they promise to close on Thanksgiving. (And then DO IT.) You could tip the people who work at those stores that day -- nothing says you can't tip a Best Buy employee. Take a bunch of gift cards from local restaurants and give one to each employee who helps you. You could get everyone to pitch in and do something nice for those workers, in some way. You could contribute to charities that help out people who for some reason get paid almost nothing even though they live in a country that can spend $180,000,000+ in a single weekend seeing a stupid movie about a stupid teenager shooting some stupid bow and arrows.
All those things might help. Shopping on Thanksgiving might help -- especially if you shop at stores that actually treat their employees well (you could look on this list of the 100 best companies to work for to help guide you) -- because shopping on Thanksgiving helps make sure that companies which find it necessary to open that day actually earn money.
What doesn't help is simply complaining that some store you don't like is open. We all benefit, directly or indirectly, more or less, from the millions of people forced to work on Thanksgiving. Let's not demonize one tiny sector and make it worse for them.
READ TINA's original post here.
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