Hey, Thanksgiving Shoppers: Macy’s Isn’t the Only One to Blame for Ruining the Holiday

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Macy’s has been getting a lot of grief for announcing that the store will open its doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving for the first time ever. But because its retail competitors are doing the same — and because our shop-anytime-anywhere culture demands it — the department store probably has no choice but to play along.

This past week, soon after the store announced it would open its doors at 8 p.m. on the night of Thanksgiving, the masses began denouncing the move as greedy, misguided and unfair to the employees being forced to work on a day traditionally reserved for family.

“Please write an obituary because I think this death needs to be acknowledged,” one observer told Chicago’s Daily Herald upon hearing of Macy’s decision, giving voice to a sentiment felt by many. “It is the death of Thanksgiving.”

Despite the outrage, neither Macy’s move nor the “death” of Thanksgiving should come as much of a surprise. In early October, word leaked that Macy’s had circulated a poll among employees to see if they would be willing to work starting at 7:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving, while also implicitly stating that they might be called in to work whether they like it or not.

(MORE: Black Friday Is Facing Extinction)

What’s more, while opening its doors on Thanksgiving may be unprecedented for Macy’s — which has previously opened a few hours later at midnight — several retailers are already well acquainted with the “tradition” of launching Black Friday sales on Thursday evening. Last year, Walmart, Target and Toys “R” Us were among the stores posting Black Friday deals on Thursday night, during what might otherwise be considered a quiet time for family conversation over pumpkin pie.

Other retailers are already joining Macy’s in announcing Thanksgiving openings. South Florida’s entire Sawgrass Mills outlet mall will do so, and stay open for 26 straight hours, according to the Sun Sentinel. And within days of Macy’s announcement, J.C. Penney executives said they, too, would follow suit.

The case of J.C. Penney presents the clearest explanation for why retailers — and department stores in particular — are running the risk of angering workers and alienating some customers by opening on Thanksgiving night. There are many reasons why J.C. Penney is struggling, with rumors of bankruptcy swirling and a stock price at 30-year lows. One is that shoppers didn’t respond well to the retailer’s attempt to stop playing the usual nonstop-promotion/door-buster/wacky-hour games practiced by the competition.

A year ago, then CEO Ron Johnson decided that J.C. Penney would largely sidestep the madness, and that Thanksgiving should be reserved for families. Stores wouldn’t open at 4 a.m. on Black Friday, but at the more reasonable hour (relatively speaking) of 6 a.m. While prices would be good, there would be no coupons or absurd, over-the-top discounts.

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For the most part, consumers reacted to these “fair and square” offers and policies by heading directly to competitors. After last year’s experience, and with its back against the wall, J.C. Penney now has no choice but to resort to the extended holiday hours and “fake prices” it tried to move away from.

Like many retailers, J.C. Penney isn’t portraying its decision to open on Thanksgiving night as one of desperation, nor as a greedy play to encourage even more consumerism at the cost of ruining American holiday tradition. Instead, company spokespeople say that Thanksgiving hours and promotions exist simply to make customers happy.

“Last year, we opened much later than the competition and our stores saw a lot of frustrated customers tap our doors wanting to shop,” J.C. Penney spokeswoman Daphne Avila said to the Dallas Morning News. “This year, we decided we weren’t going to let those opportunities pass us by.”

In a press release, Macy’s also pointed the finger at shoppers demanding Thanksgiving hours as an explanation for this year’s change. “In response to interest from customers who prefer to start their shopping early,” the company stated, “most Macy’s stores will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening, consistent with many other retailers.”

It’s convenient for retailers to subtly, delicately pass the blame for the “death of Thanksgiving” onto shoppers. Such an explanation might seem underhanded if it weren’t largely true. The truth is that stores wouldn’t be open if it wasn’t in their best business interest, just as stores wouldn’t launch holiday-season deals in September if shoppers didn’t have an appetite for it. Stores don’t need all consumers, or even a majority, to like the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving as a justification to open early. All they need is a sizable number of fanatical shoppers, and clearly, that’s covered.

(MORE: Like It or Not, the Holiday Shopping Season Just Started)

The results of a new American Express survey indicate that more consumers want to do their holiday shopping earlier — 27% said they’ll be done by Dec. 1, compared with 24% last year. Consumers are also becoming more comfortable with the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving, if not in person, than certainly online; e-mail inboxes are sure to be flooded with special offers on the morning of Turkey Day because retailers know nearly everyone has the day off. “Thanksgiving has become a marquee day for online shopping,” Keith Mercier, associate partner with IBM’s Retail Center of Competence, told MarketWatch, citing data indicating that Thanksgiving e-sales have grown 132% over the past five years.

Because of all this, “it’s probably smart for Macy’s to be open” on the night of Turkey Day, Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of America’s Research Group, said to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Many shoppers understand that stores like Macy’s and J.C. Penney are only doing what makes sense for them, given the realities of today’s retail world. If anything, some don’t think Thanksgiving is being ruined by retailers opening their doors, but by the shoppers who play along and show up. As one person commenting on the Sun-Times story put it:

If no one wanted to SHOP on Thanksgiving, the stores wouldn’t be OPENED. Don’t blame Macy’s. Blame all these door-buster nitwit shoppers who’d rather fight crowds than stay home with their family.

34 comments
DanWest
DanWest

Both sides are to blame:  The stupid, low class shoppers, and the stores.  I doubt this is what the customers truly want.  Do you really think that customers have begged and petitioned store owners to "please be open on Thanksgiving"?

Doubtful.

It's more like one store makes a point of opening an hour earlier, and all the rest follow suit.  The ignorant customers then follow like sheep.

I wish they'd all just open at 6 AM on Thanksgiving and be done with it.  It wouldn't affect me!




vbel11
vbel11

One more example of Corporate GREED and lack of RESPECT for the employees that will be unable to spend time with their friends and families. It spreads out the time the stores have to stay open, adding to the cost of security, utilities, workers, etc. and doesn't really increase the bottom line. The stores bring in junk "door busters", as well as a few real value items, raise the prices so the sale items look good, and the foolish public buys into the system.  Oh yes, some even purchase  this junk in quanlities and try to sell on ebay. If the stores weren't open, people couldn't shop, but amazingly somehow we all would still manage to get what we need /want for the holidays.

khenricks1719
khenricks1719

I've always shopped Black Friday -- I enjoy it.  When you go into it with the right attitude, it can be a lot of fun.   I don't have a problem with stores opening Thanksgiving NIGHT -- 8pm or later.   The majority of people are done with dinner (and partway through a triptophan coma) by that point.   Opening up earlier is ridiculous -- and I think retailers will find it's not worth it.   As much as I love Black Friday, I love my family MORE, and will NOT be cutting our Thanksgiving dinner short so I can get to the strip mall.

siciliaphi
siciliaphi

Anyone with half a brain shops the week after Christmas.  I go to the Lenox outlet after Christmas, scarf up beautiful stuff for peanuts, and I'm done for the next year.  I can cover most of my gift giving needs this way.  That way, I don't mind spending a bit more on the kids, who you can't buy that far ahead for because, well, fads and electronic gadgets change faster than red lights on Black Friday.  (I also wrapped all those gifts while I watched the Mummers Parade last January.  I'm almost done already,.

 

BFD
BFD

Wrong, if the stores weren't open, people wouldn't shop. It's very simple.  No one is going to break down your door to get into your store to shop if no one is there to serve them.  People will just have to adapt to shopping when stores are open.  I know, crazy concept, right?

mumsproud2
mumsproud2

The ever increasing corporate greed in this county is out of control and quite frankly disgusting.  The problem is that Executives of large organizations who are already wealthy are being further rewarded for increasing profits and stock price for shareholders (also wealthy).  It's done any way possible.  There is absolutely no regard for the average working class person, as they can't relate.  They're in a world of their own.

LilianMurphy
LilianMurphy

So shopping specifically on Thanksgiving Day is the ultimate advantage to customers meeting their goal of getting their shopping done early? Retailers are blaming shoppers for this greedy, selfish act, so CEO'S actually analyzed the situation and deemed that shoppers were right; Thanksgiving day shopping is a huge advantage, one so great that denying employees that full day with their friends/family is in fact a noble act and kudos to them for deciding to do it. FOOLISHNESS! Retailers are the blame. Besides, people who want to finish early shop early, shop before the end of November 28th and those concerned with cost save their receipts then RETURN THE ITEM for the lesser price. It's not like most retailers are going to deny them the return and re-purchase. Shopping Thanksgiving night is selfish and uncalled for.

JimSullivan
JimSullivan

I will NEVER set foot in any store that opens on Thanksgiving this year. And I mean never again. If that means going out of my way in future, so be it. Some things are more important than convenience.

c.carmack
c.carmack

I am one of those workers that have been informed that we are going to open on Thanksgiving. REALLY!!!!!!!!!!! What else do they want. Most people do not have dinner until later in the day. But we the workers have to forgo Thanksgiving. What else are we going to have to give up? All the people want to know is why the families don't and can't be together this is why!!!!!!!! Because companies what that almighty dollar. They don't care. Because I guarantee they will be with their families.

Justathoughtbyme
Justathoughtbyme

I realize other people work on the Holidays but they are a necessity, firemen, policemen  etc. and I doubt they make 8.25 an hour.  Macys has ruined the holiday.  Yes they did a survey AFTER they decided to be open to see what employees were willing.  Most all said NO.  To the commenters who said it would be fun to shop after the festivities... think of the poor employees who cant and must go to work for a 10 hour shift.   The fun and hype of the holidays is gone.  Thanks Macys.... I personally am boycotting them.

RobinMiller
RobinMiller

I never shop during the Thanksgiving weekend. The stores are crowded and service personnel are tired. I work from home on my own schedule, so I tend to shop when the Dilberts are snuggled all safe in their cubicles...

cloudninegirl
cloudninegirl

Thanksgiving is one of my FAVORITE holidays. I refuse to let Christmas encroach on this wonderful holiday, and I fully honor this wonderful time for friends and family until the end of November. Come December 1st, I begin to celebrate my SECOND favorite holiday ... Christmas!

spookiewriter
spookiewriter

Here's a thought...

Nobody is forcing you to shop on Thanksgiving. So if you want to celebrate the holiday without shopping and therefore ruining the day then just stay home.

It's not like Americans all go out and hold hands at noon on that Thursday.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

People in the United States forget that one of the first things the Puritans did upon arriving at Plymouth Rock was eliminate most religious holidays - including Christmas.  Thanksgiving was established by Lincoln in 1863.

The thing that chafes my wienie is how businesses exploit "holidays", and how the puling masses eat that crap up.  Thanksgiving is a made up "holiday".  So is Christmas (It was chosen on an old solstice because the pagans wouldn't give up their very popular mid-winter celebrations when they converted).  Even Easter (which is celebrated on a Sunday, when most things are closed ANYHOW because of Christian beliefs) is just another contrived observance.  In short, businesses will use any excuse to try to bring in the masses and the masses will go.  Today, when fewer are giving a rat's patootie about religious holidays, even more people show up for the deals just to buy stuff for THEMSELVES.

So let's just drop the holiday references altogether and call the "season" what it really means to people today "The YEAR END SALE SEASON!".  It is, after all, the reason for the season since the "season" is made up crap in the first place.  It's the dishonesty in the motives of both shoppers and businesses that bothers me the most.  We all know what it's really about (businesses making money).  Holiday shopping is about as distant from "peace on earth and goodwill toward men" as humanity can go without employing weapons of mass destruction.  Why pretend it's anything other than what it is?  Call a spade a spade and leave it go at that.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

I think the masses are really upset that so many people will support it by showing up, or at least take some supposedly principled Libertarian stance about the evils of Blue Laws. Let's face it, when you promote a consumerist culture based on excess, and shopping becomes entertainment, this is what you get. National holidays are an endangered concept except for buying opportunities. It won't be long you see ads for Martin Luther King Day, saying "I have a dream of lower prices on that wine cooler you wanted."

relussier
relussier

I think that the argument "blame people who ask to shop" is akin to "blame children who ask for guns." I think Macy's, and any institution for that matter, has a responsibility to the community which trumps "good business" decisions.

Raggedhand
Raggedhand

While I think that shopping on a holiday is stupid, I also think that anything that smacks of blue laws and curtailing of shopping hours is equally dumb. Yes, I feel for the employees that have to work, but that's not a good excuse for jumping on Macy's or other retailers for opening up early.

But retail aren't the only workers on holidays. Talk to police, fire and medical employees. Talk to soldiers. Talk to restaurant employees. I've worked many a Thanksgiving and Christmas day and I understand the feeling of waiting on a table of family members celebrating their holiday while my own turkey is sitting at home waiting. But that's the way it's been for servants (public and otherwise)  since the beginning of time. There is always someone standing in the corner being the "help" while others enjoy themselves.  The goal is to work your way out of those jobs if you don't want to do it, or understand that it's a part of the profession if you do like the job.

As the old farmer says, you have to make hay while the sun shines. Penny's and Macy's and others have to make their money when people are wanting to spend it. The employees will still want their jobs after the holidays and if the stores can't make their money in November and December, they won't be able to continue through the lean times in January and February.

cheri.cyberseller
cheri.cyberseller

How arrogant are those who criticize how I choose to spend Thanksgiving!  I am NOT a Black Friday bargain shopper, but I reserve the right to become one if I so desire.  If the naysayers want to stay home, so be it.  It is melodramatic to declare Thanksgiving as dead.   I have sufficient time from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. to visit with my family and preserve the tradition.  How much time do you really need to eat pumpkin pie.  Besides, shopping with your siblings or your parents can be far more memorable of an experience than the dinner itself. 

HeatherJones1
HeatherJones1

@spookiewriter No one is forcing you to shop on Thanksgiving but the companies are forcing the employees to work or face stricter than normal discipline.

BFD
BFD

@DeweySayenoff , Thanksgiving isn't a religious holiday and fyi, all holidays are made up. 

c.carmack
c.carmack

@DeweySayenoff First of all you are a piece of work. And full of crap. It doesn't matter what this country has done to have holidays. It is ours. If you don't like it then leave. You are a sorry person. We as a whole want our traditions. And when money hungry business wants to take it all away then that is a problem. Because I can say that government or any other business would not do it. And I don't give a crap what you believe.

HeatherJones1
HeatherJones1

@DeweySayenoff I will just miss having the family gathering and dinner together.  It rarely happens because of scheduling anyway, and now I am losing one of my two per year.  I still believe all these retailers should feel deep shame.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@SmoothEdward1 Just a slight point of logic here...  When there are "so many people" supporting something, they ARE "the masses".  The only people upset here are those who still buy into the contrived religious holidays surrounding the year end sale season and are upset at businesses for taking their myth and using it for secular advantage (after all, that's a privilege reserved for religious leaders).

It's less about the power and influence of business than it is about the waning power and influence of religion.

Voice_of_Rationality
Voice_of_Rationality

@relussier Issue being, businesses are driven by one motivator and one alone: profit. Were the suits to decide that they would stay closed on Thanksgiving for "the good of the community", they could potentially open themselves up to real, actual liability from stakeholders. It's easier and safer to go, "Me, too," and follow the trend.

 Not arguing that it's a good or a bad thing, just stating the reality on the ground.

ladybeeV
ladybeeV

@raggedhand    If I did go out and on Holiday like Thanksgiving (for example) and you waited on me with the attitude of feeling cheated because you aren't home making your Turkey it better not show up in the service or your tips will be according to your service. So smile and be thankful because your tips depend on that usually. Some cannot be at home to cook a big TG dinner for many different reasons. All of them legit. I am a big tipper unless I feel the service is shabby or the waiter has attitude. If you have to be there smile and make money. If not find another line of work as there is always someone who will take your place willingly. Thats my 2cents

GeorgieDundas
GeorgieDundas

@cheri.cyberseller I totally agree, for a supposedly free country we seem to have a rather unhealthy obsession with what our neighbors down the street are doing.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

My objection is not based on religion but instead on watching our important cultural traditions destroyed by those interested in exploiting our insatiable desire to acquire things to boost their profits. We are our own worst enemy sometimes and are often better off with limits being placed on our desires.

HeatherJones1
HeatherJones1

@Voice_of_Rationality @relussier and yet, as a macy's employee through the last two holidays where we opened at midnight.  We had huge goals in the middle of the night and stood around waiting to see a customer because everyone was in bed or with family.  It really isn't a sound business decision for every store.  It is however, another example of how little they value their employees.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

@GeorgieDundas @SmoothEdward1 Well, if you want to pull the curtains back on most cultural traditions you will find the truth disturbing. That's sad but the more important reason, as relates to this discussion, are what these holidays came to represent to families who gathered for the celebration. It seems to me that our extreme focus on the consumerism is just sucking the life out of the good things about celebrating holidays that have nothing to do with buying stuff. There is no end to it either. Isn't it enough that we can already shop online 24-7, 365? I think if we want to preserve the nicer part of our holiday celebrations we have to work hard at making it so, or our insatiable appetites will just turn everything into a "sale."

GeorgieDundas
GeorgieDundas

@SmoothEdward1 what important cultural tradition? Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a holiday that we were taught in grade school celebrates the pilgrims and the indians working together but the real history of the holiday is that the first thanksgiving was in celebration of a massacre of an entire native village. And Christmas is only part of your culture if you are a christian, the non religous aspects of christmas have always been about consumerism and have only existed for less than a century.