Pulling the Short Straw on Black Friday

Because most local retailers decided to capitalize by opening early on Thanksgiving evening, those human popsicles stirred into a materialistic frenzy, clamoring outside, anxiously awaiting the opening in search of the quintessential Holy Grail of bargains, succumbed to an anti-climactic start of their holiday shopping season.

Having taken a “Seasonal Associate” position at the local department store, Stick Chick pulled the 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. doorbuster shift on Black Friday; AKA the short straw. Counting herself lucky to be merely sleep-deprived and held to a single shift straight through the night rather than a split shift as several of her compatriots, she made the following observations.

1. People still crave the Magic Bullet and are willing to shop for it at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Magic Bullet As Seen on TV
Magic Bullet As Seen on TV

2. Doorbuster shoppers appear laser-guided on their mission to make purchases even if the items are of questionable quality (made in China) with little apparent regard to the usefulness or need for said items.

3. Black Friday shoppers are not browsing for anything; they are hunting.

Working on Turkey Day for the Sake of Consumerism

You may have noticed the headlines and circulars. More and more retail stores are beginning their Black Friday sales by opening on Thanksgiving and remaining open round the clock until the wee hours of Friday night. That’s right, nearly a full 24 hours of retail shopping to work off that turkey dinner. We might as well change the name from Thanksgiving to Turkey Day permanently because the fact is; we have become numb to thankfulness.

Several petitions have cropped up on Change.org to encourage national retailers including: Best Buy, Big Lots!, Kohl’s, Simon’s Properties (the malls) Target, Wal-Mart (and probably more) to STOP THE MADNESS! Why? Because there’s a domino effect.  Once one company makes the commitment to open early, so follows the rest.

A majority of the seasonal workers are part-time with understandably bare-bones training, and buoyed by longer term employees. It is not surprising that these jobs pay minimum wage and the hours are deliberately inconsistent, rendering it virtually impossible for those workers to hold more than one job. This clever but devious ploy keeps workers beholden if they want to retain the job at all. With a glut of unemployed people, workers and corporations alike know that they can easily be replaced.

Turkey Small 300x300

American retail workers bear the brunt of this push into frenzied consumerism by the retailers who look to kick-off the Christmas shopping season by offering incredible deals during these ridiculous crusades for added profit.

What are the effects?

1. People who work in these low-paying jobs must decide between curbing their holiday, forgoing sleep while they go to work, calling in sick (passive), or outright refusing (aggressive) to work at the risk of being fired.

2. Retailers get an infusion of shoppers even while under arguably more challenging security. (People who would normally otherwise be sleeping are instead driving on the roads. Great.)

3. Shoppers literally buy into consumerism on a wholly selfish level while workers put their turkey day on hold so that it can happen.

It is bad enough that retailers during the last decade or two have moved Black Friday back successively and successfully from what was once “early bird” shopping at the crack of dawn to “midnight madness.” Now they plan to eliminate Thanksgiving all together.

So what is it that we should be thankful for?

That we live in a place where we have such abundance that we are willing to sacrifice a day without work, a day to enjoy those few collective kick-back-and-relax days for a new form of gluttony?

Stick Chick understands the need for medical professionals, certain care-givers, prison officials, funeral directors, etc. to be willing, able, and even expected to work on holidays—not all of them, but at least in rotation or emergency situations. The people in these professions understand that the nature of their position—the care of others—requires personal sacrifice.  Loss of family time or the human need for a break from the grind is no less warranted for these people, but at least their duties benefit humanity. But this, this materialistic, consumerism may just be the death of thanks, the conclusion of Thanksgiving itself.

So Stick Chick has been wondering…”What if?”—a LOT lately.

What if no one shopped on Thanksgiving?

What if everyone refused to begin shopping on Black Friday before 4 a.m.?

In personal protest, Stick Chick pledges to make NO retail purchases whatsoever on Thanksgiving day. Instead, she will pause with gratefulness and thanks for her many blessings. She asked me to ask you to join her in that effort.

Finding Christmas Spirit

Mucking about the local mall early Friday morning, a time despite the holiday season when only the hub stores are open and the Silver Sneakers mall walkers lapped me at a brisk pace, I searched for Christmas spirit.  It was too early for small children turned out in their most smashing Christmas clothing; rushed to Santa’s Wonderland to perch on his lap for picture perfection.

The sole customer in Fye, aware of the holiday deals on movies and video games had already checked out but could not get past the incessant beep of the security gates.  The flustered cashier, the only employee about, kept calling her back to find second, third, and fourth security tags on her handful of purchases.  The fifth try was obviously the charm.

I passed along gated stores with fashionably posed mannequins, their hips askew, legs elongated, classically leaned back at the waist enough to give illusion of shoulder action—headless yet clothed in the latest styles.  I wondered who might have had the misfortune to dress them in the lifeless clothing, these days in  material so thin as to require three or more layers just to cover some skin.

The hobbling cashier in Bath & Body Works was so cheerful, despite the medical boot on her left foot.  I was her first customer, and imagined she might be a bit less cheery in a few short hours.  I commented on her fortitude, working a stand-up job in her condition over holidays.  Smiling even so, with a plan to decorate her boot with battery-operated lights, upon check out she handed me a couple of buttons; one with a reindeer and the other a dreidel.  I giggled at her cheer and the dreidel for its lack of Christmas-ness, and marked Hanukkah-ness.

I passed the mandatory high-priced coffee shop, complete in its seen-one-seen-em-all space on my way to the JCPenney at the south end.  It was there where I found my Christmas spirit. It wasn’t the boxed game of Mystery Date.

There she was.  A vision in blinking, sparkling and reflective light as she busily loaded a clothing rack in the misses apparel department. I requested a photo of one MaryLou, a living, breathing cornucopia of personified Christmas cheer.  To my delight, she cheerfully agreed and together we sought the Christmas shoppe setting on the second floor.

Merry Christmas from MaryLou
Merry Christmas from MaryLou

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,  and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”