BLEAK FRIDAY

Posted in Quick Hits on November 28th, 2014 by Ed

In the past I've been open about not really understanding Black Friday, although recently I've come to see it as something people enjoy as a ritual rather than for any logical reason. Some people enjoy going shopping at like 4 AM rather than buying things online for the same reason some people enjoy going to a sporting event rather than watching it on TV. I've made peace with the fact that it's stupid and people like it anyway, and I've stopped trying to talk anyone out of following the herd.

Then they started this "Friday starts on Thursday morning" shit.

Look, I could recite all of the reasons why this is fucked up from the macro perspective: crass consumerism replacing family time, expansion of the holiday spending frenzy, the inability of small businesses to compete, etc etc. The only thing that really bothers me about it, though, is the way that low-wage service industry employees are being forced to sacrifice one of the few remaining holidays on which Americans are not expected to work. As a person who usually spends it at home alone these days, economic activity shuts the hell down on Thanksgiving. Everything is closed. Even the gas stations and chain fast food restaurants are closed. Bars are closed. Even the few things that seem to stay open on Christmas are closed. It's essentially the last holiday in our economy that is a "day off" in the literal sense for everyone who isn't working in an emergency room or a fire station. At least the people in those professions are relatively well compensated for the scheduling sacrifices they make. The people working the floor at Target – not so much.

Perhaps we're overreacting to this. Maybe people working retail are fine with the opportunity to (hopefully) get time-and-a-half for working on a holiday. The problem is that people who aren't OK with it can't do anything about it. Hourly retail staff are among the lowest paid and most powerless people in our workforce. Like fast food workers they are viewed as disposable and high turnover is expected. If you don't like it, there's the door. And when you end up choosing family over a day doing inventory, you become another Lazy and inherently flawed person wearing the scarlet U of the unemployed.

If you're going to get fired for trying to do normal human things like spend a holiday A) not working and B) with family, it should at least be on account of how vitally important your job is. The people working the register at the big box stores probably aren't over that bar.