Black Thanksgiving: Who is to Blame?

Last year, number of big name retailers, including Walmart, Sears, and Toys R Us – made the jump from Black Friday to Thanksgiving night hours. That prompted a little ode to Black Friday from me.

In that rant, I predicted the path had been set for this to become the norm. It has. Walmart, Sears, and Toys R Us all have announced they will be opening even earlier this year, at 8pm on Thanksgiving night. Target made the leap from midnight to 9pm to join the others.

Those brazen few paved the way for a number more to make the move this year.

Whether its 8pm, 9pm, or midnight, it doesn’t really matter. The message has clearly been sent: “We retailers care more about driving a tiny bit more profit than we care about our employees spending a holiday with their families.”

Is it more of a case of greed or desperation on behalf of these retailers?

Moving Thanksgiving store hours earlier and earlier every year to compete reeks of desperation. If you provide a good value prop. to your customers, what are you worried about? Are those few hours going to make or break your year? Are they worth sacrificing your entire workforce’s morale? If so, I really question the future of your business.

black thursdayOr, perhaps it’s just another form of corporate greed? All of these store hour decisions roll up to the highest executives in these companies. Why not pull the trigger if it means a bump in their annual bonus? Rest assured, they’ll be spending the entire holiday weekend at home or on vacation with their families, so it doesn’t really effect them.

What’s really sad about this is that this is the first time all of these retailers are doing this in their long and storied histories. And that really speaks to:

  1. a devaluing of the employee
  2. a cultural values tipping point

Are Consumers to Blame for Black Thanksgiving?

A number of retailers have made this move because they claim that they are simply responding to consumer demand.

I have a very hard time believing this assertion. I can’t imagine that millions or even thousands of consumers sent desperate please to CEO’s begging for them to open on Thanksgiving so they could spend those holiday hours rushing around so as not to miss out on deals they could have had the next day anyways.

Consumer demand” could easily be translated to “Competitor store A opened on Thanksgiving and now I’m scared a few customers won’t visit my store the next day if they got everything they needed on Thanksgiving“. There is no demand without the stores opening earlier in the first place.

Employees Fight Back

Imagine being an employee of one of these stores.

You probably don’t get vacation, your pay sucks, and unless you are in management, you likely do not have the transferable skills to just up and leave because you don’t like an employer’s decision. Thanksgiving was one of the 2 days per year you could actually count on spending with your family (even if you had to go to bed at 3pm in order to wake up and get in to work for a 12am opening). No more. And it’s not just showing up at 8pm when the store opens, it’s coming in hours earlier to set up, stock, and prepare for the ensuing madness.

While the retailers have made claims that they have given their employees the option to work on Thanksgiving, the employees have been vocal that is not the case.

Not surprisingly, they are a bit pissed.

Thousands of Walmart employees are planning strikes.

One Target employee started an online petition urging them to change back their hours. The petition is closing in on half-a-million signatures, with a number of them threatening to not shop at Target at all this holiday season if they don’t change the hours back. It joins over 90 similar petitions on

That’s some REAL consumer and employee demand.

Consumers Need to Step it Up (by Staying Home)

Employees can’t do it alone, however. We, as consumers, have a moral responsibility to back them up by not taking our business to these retailers.

That shiny piece of crap at 20% off you could have snatched up days later will feel incredibly hollow once it makes it home and you realize you’ve sacrificed some of the last few hours of quality family time you had left over the year and contributed to another human being peeled away from their family as well.

Make these greedy retailer CEO’s regretful that they made these decisions. The negative PR is there, the undesirable increase in union activity is there, the employee disdain and pushback is there, but nothing will change unless you, as a consumer, stay away from the madness. Prove to them that some things are still more important than money.

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