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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

To shop, or not to shop: Lately, it's a big question

Get ready for some whining.

We’re starting today with a trip to my apartment in suburban Pittsburgh. I’ve awakened in the late morning after working the night before and realized that I’m pretty much stuck there for the day.

I can’t go shopping. I can’t really call anyone to do anything, because there’s nothing going on.

The good news is that I know I’ll get busy later when I head to work.

In the meantime, I figure it’s as good a time as any to do some cleaning, and even some laundry.

About this time I start feeling sorry for myself, because as I’m toiling away I realize I’m cleaning my toilet on Christmas Day 1995.

That was just one of many holidays I’ve worked over the years. Weekends and holidays come with the territory when you work in media.

I’m pretty sure I also worked Thanksgiving Day that year, because I remember the yearly meals the bosses would supply. I was single then, and there was no way I was going to cook a turkey for one, so it was nice to come in and dig into a traditional holiday dinner.

I’ve been thinking about those days a lot lately, as the topic of work on holidays has moved into the forefront with national retailers’ announcements of their store hours for Black Friday shopping.

The outrage began last year, when a slew of stores opened their doors at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.
It’s hard to call it Black Friday if it’s actually early Thursday evening.

This year, though, that ante’s been upped by Kmart, which announced this week its plans to open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning and then remain open for 41 consecutive hours.

So, shoppers, you, too, can head out shopping in Mentor as Mom or Aunt Sue are loading the turkey in the oven. Then, when Uncle Joe or Pop are fading into their tryptophan coma, you can run back as the regret sets in and you realize you really do need that $4 coffeemaker.

What? You’re not a Jet Black Thursday believer?

Apparently a lot of folks aren’t.

I’ve seen it all over Twitter and in countless Facebook posts.

Boycott! It’s crap! I’ll never shop at your stores again!

The outrage centers on store workers missing the special holiday moments with their families.

How funny that no one said a thing when I had to head in to work year after year, putting together the paper that got tossed on your doorstep on what’s now called Black Friday.

(I told you there’d be whining.)

The current sentiment seems to be that no matter how much we like sales, store clerks should be able to enjoy their family time, too.

But something we discussed here in the office this week is that no one’s defending the restaurant workers who are heading to work on the holiday to cook and deliver food to the tables of those who are heading out to eat for the holiday.

I worked in retail for a long time, and have eaten in a lot of restaurants, so I feel like it’s OK for me to say this — restaurant workers have a difficult job. They deserve some of that sympathy, too.

Those meals are heavy to carry around. I’m guessing that on the day when we’re supposed to be giving thanks, they’ll take a lot of abuse from customers. And, yes, they’d rather be at home, too.

But, they know, just like those who work in stores do, that the sales are important to their companies.

The unstable U.S. economy depends on moments in time like Black Friday, and its sister, Cyber Monday. (How much of your work time will you waste that day as you do your holiday shopping from your cubicle?)

Billions are spent at these stores over the course of the Thursday and Friday night of Thanksgiving.

The best advice I’ve seen handed out is that if these early-bird sales really bother you, just stay home. Stay off the stores’ websites. Don’t make those purchases they want you to make.

It’s much like the “Just Say No” of the anti-drug movement.

If you want to make a point, just don’t shop.

As many people are thrilled by the existence of Black Friday as those who dislike it.

We all know someone — the groups of friends bonding for a night of bargain hunting; or families heading out and then having breakfast the next morning once all the early-birds are over.

So, what are you going to do?

Is a good night’s sleep in the cards, or is that trinket you’ve been dreaming about just too good to pass up?

It’s up to you.

Either way you do it, I hope it’s enjoyable Thanksgiving.


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