I’m given to understand retailers, in relentless competition with one another, are considering starting Black Friday sales at midnight or even earlier this year. Which results in missing out on watching the game or taking a nap on Turkey Day afternoon (if you wish to be near the front of the line).
There are several protests – from those who want to stay home with their families and those who think this policy is cruel to employees of said stores.
In my mind, if everyone just stayed home and slept in on Friday morning all could be put aright.
If all employees chose to drive to work right at the time the store was to open, and realized no customer lines meant they could return home to a good nights sleep, well, that would be ‘fixed’ too.
And the managers, bereft of customers or helping hands, could inform corporate they’d best push back their sales until the next morning, else lose out on their share of the shopping frenzy.
And corporate, wanting to end the season with record sales, would agree.
I’ve often been accused of being naive and simplistic…and idealistic.
But in actuality, it is that simple.
The reason it doesn’t work is there will always be those who wish to have the benefits of some set-up and figure, what’s the harm if I do? Those few who think, “Aha! A boycott of the early openings! I can stroll in, shop in a nearly deserted store and snag the greatest deals for myself.”
(In the interest of full disclosure, shopping great deals in an empty store with no lines at the register and no over-zealous selling by associates is my idea of heavenly shopping and I must confess to being tempted, as well.)
Hence, the knowledge of the few who won’t boycott lures those who object into betraying their stated beliefs and heading for the lines early, for fear they will somehow miss out.
(I’ve purposefully left out the added complication of Black Friday shopping as a family tradition – my take on that requires a complete other blog post…)
My grandmother often told me true stories to reflect both her idea of Christian values and the ever present reality of human nature. She obviously was a good storyteller, as I remember the following being told to me when I was 9 or so:
One Sunday, her fellow church ladies were up in arms at the sacrilegious behavior of the local grocer. Seems he was keeping his store open on Sunday! Many a genteel lady was incensed to unladylike ire and loudly proclaimed the need for prayer, intervention, etc., for the sake of this man’s soul.
Passing by the offending store later on her way home, Grandma observed many of those same outraged souls, entering that same store or exiting with purchases. Apparently because the store was open anyways. And most likely saved them a trip to town later in the week.
She was pretty certain those good folks felt no twinge of guilt in their participation and the support of sacrilege, though she admitted she did not ask them outright.
For her part, she continued to not shop on Sundays – hopeful others would join. Not out of any fear of hell’s fire, but simply because she believed every one deserved at least one day of rest a week, for their physical, mental and emotional health – which, in her mind, was the true reason the Sabbath law was put in place to begin with. And if there were no customers, it was not in the shop owner’s best interest to be open.
To her mind, a simple solution.
Years later, I discovered the truck stop where I worked as a waitress had decided to open for Christmas day. A trial to see if being open would increase the bottom line. Since I was single, with no children, I had always volunteered to work holidays (we were open every holiday except for Christmas – truckers deserve a turkey meal too…)
I worked a double shift that day and ran my ever-lovin’ arse off. From tales told by the travelers, I discovered that at least on I-70, we were the only place open between Hayes, Kansas and Denver, Colorado. Grateful and hungry travelers made corporate very happy they had decided to open.
And I made a tidy sum almost quadruple in the amount of my usual tips, from those same grateful travelers.
Hard to find valid arguments for returning to closed status on Christmas – -until the following year, when most other places had figured out they were missing out and decided to open too. The bottom line was negatively impacted, but corporate simply couldn’t close now, when everyone else is open.
I didn’t make as much money either, partly because having several options to choose from made the travelers less grateful and more likely to gripe about the prices or wait times when we were busy.
But also because my fellow workers had been envious of my take the previous year and many volunteered to work the holiday in order to get their share. Which resulted in the mandate that all employees would work 4-5 hour shifts – touted as the ‘fair way’ of sharing the burden of being open, but in actuality, done in order to quell the greedy fighting over shifts/sections.
By the following year, my fellow co-workers were griping about having to deal with grumbling travelers, low tips and working 4 hours in the middle of a day they would have rather been home with their family.
History often shows me the part of human nature I’m well familiar with. Over the years, I’ve hesitated in action in order to try to see the long term effects of a decision. I secretly believe I’ve missed out on opportunities beneficial to my own well-being because of pondering the long-term ramifications for too long.
On the other hand, I’ve been pretty happy to discover some of my procrastination has actually turned out to be what saved me from misfortune.
So often the awesome power of “Strength in Numbers” meets its end when asked to perform in our “Every man (or woman) for themselves” culture.
Which results in simple solutions becoming complex issues. 9 times out of 10.
So I expect to hear news reports of a successful Black Friday (a necessity for our struggling economy) and tales from friends of the great deals they snagged at midnight.
I predict next year, Black Friday will actually start as soon as football ends on Turkey Thursday and there, it will stay.
Because I have more faith in the resolve of the football lover’s heart than I do in basic human nature.