Demand drives Thanksgiving bargain blitzes


As more big-box retailers offer Black Friday bargains a day early, many Americans fear the Thanksgiving holiday is being co-opted and commercialized.

Retailers are touting Thursday deals, much to the chagrin of Thanksgiving traditionalists and store employees who want the day off to spend with their families.

The phenomenon isn’t brand-new — a Washington Post story from 2011 reports early Black Friday backlash — but it seems to be accelerating as stores aggressively advertise their Thursday doorbusters.

Tension between the day reserved for grateful gatherings and family feasts and the official start of the Christmas shopping season is perhaps as old as the Black Friday tradition itself. Both observances are quintessentially American, and in many households, they more or less comfortably coexist.

Online petitions implore retailers to close the doors today. Signers want to draw a line in the sand: Keep Thanksgiving a strictly turkey, football and family affair, and let the bargain-hunting and gift-gathering wait till the next day.

The sentiment is admirable, but it’s ultimately up to society at large — not retail executives — whether Thanksgiving is observed with all the wholesome reverence of a Norman Rockwell painting or whether it succumbs to Black Friday creep.

Signing a petition is easy, but stores will count dollars and cents, not signatures, to determine whether opening on Thanksgiving is a good business decision.

Consumers who believe the deals are encroaching on a beloved American holiday can vote with their wallets and stay home. If enough people share the sentiment and follow through, retailers will adjust their schedules to reflect the diminished demand.

While we understand the dismay over Black Friday creep, it’s unfair to blame businesses for giving their customers what they want. Sure, stores can use massive markdowns to drive up demand, but if consumers really value Thanksgiving as much as the plaintive petitions suggest, then the aisles ought to be nearly empty no matter how low the prices go.

If they aren’t, it’s more a reflection of American consumer culture than corporate greed. No amount of hand-wringing and finger-wagging can change that.

As for employees’ work schedules, we sympathize with the salespeople who want to spend Thanksgiving at home. But cashiers and managers are by no means alone on the holiday payroll.

Police, paramedics, firefighters and other emergency personnel will report to work today. Same goes for doctors, nurses, aides and orderlies in hospitals and assisted-living facilities. The broadcasters, parade participants and football players we watch on TV will all be hard at work while we viewers are at rest.

We live in a 24-hour world where, even on major holidays, it’s impractical or impossible for every enterprise to simultaneously grind to a halt. Many workers plan alternative celebrations with family, friends or colleagues, and these gatherings are equally meaningful.

Whether you settle in for turkey and all the trimmings, camp out at the electronics store to be first in line for the latest gadget or report to work, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving and hope the spirit of gratitude lingers throughout the season ahead.

The Register-Herald

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