An Open Letter To People Boycotting Businesses For Opening on Holidays

The pies are baked. The turkey is tender. The homemade noodles are thickening up. Your aunts and uncles have brought their families from afar and the house is raucous with old stories of adventure from childhoods spent together. There is a magic in the air, and your favorite family holiday is a sacred gathering of epic proportions.

That’s truly wonderful. I’m happy for you, but not everyone has a fairytale story when the holidays grow near. Not everyone’s family is close, geographically or emotionally. Not everyone holds Thanksgiving as dear as others. And not everyone is disgusted that the world continues to turn even while your family tries to put life on hold for one Thursday each November.

If you’re from a fairytale family (don’t take that as a slam against you! I’m from one of these families myself), you may not realize that others are less fortunate. You may not notice the co-worker who isn’t gushing about seeing his or her family for a big dinner. You may laugh off the friend who doesn’t eat turkey. You may scoff at the people who look forward to shopping on a day when most people stay home, free to get good deals and good parking spots while avoiding the crazy rush of Black Friday.

The reality is that being offended on someone else’s behalf is an epidemic in America. You think it’s wrong for employees to be at work while you’re at home enjoying food, family, and relaxation. But you don’t get to speak for me. You don’t get to speak for everyone.

Around my house, it’s always been a tradition to have Thanksgiving dinner early. By 2 o’clock, everyone’s ready to burst from my mom’s legendary mashed potatoes, the pumpkin pie, and the turkey my uncle Dave carved up. By three or four, people are gone to other dinners. Hardly anyone in my family only has one place to be for Thanksgiving; it’s not the romantic one-location affair it may have been in years past.

When I was younger, I worked at a few retail stores, and each time the holidays came around, I looked forward to working. Thanksgiving at Walmart, for instance, was worked by volunteers only, and paid more than the average day. It was a chance to bank some money for the holidays when I would need money the most. The management would always make sure it was an enjoyable shift, and not some sort of slave-drive. We had pies and food and everyone was in good spirits, including the customers (a rarity!). We all worked with cheer in our hearts, and we really appreciated those days. Very few work shifts in a year are as thoroughly fun as Thanksgiving and Christmas. For the families who had early dinners, we were able to volunteer for evening shift, and for those who had dinners later in the day, they could volunteer to work early. No one was ever forced to work a shift on Thanksgiving.

Some customers would come in and comment that it was a shame we had to work on Thanksgiving. It was always a chance (and a chore) to educate the general public that we weren’t there against our will. They would make faces as if they could see someone with a whip standing behind us, but their impressions of the situation were dead wrong, and so are yours.

I’m sure somewhere someone is being told they have to work the holidays, and that’s unfortunate. But I’ve seen the list of businesses that you’re calling to boycott, and while I’m not privy to the practices of all of them, I’m familiar enough with a few of them to know you’re off base. One huge thing you need to know about huge corporations is that they don’t do anything unless they can make money. With regard to opening on the holidays, they did market research and determined by an overwhelming response that they would have plenty of people wanting to shop on those days. Based on the willingness of people to go shopping, it’s reasonable to assume that not everyone wants Thanksgiving to be the way you want it to be.

If you don’t want to shop on Thanksgiving, you don’t have to. No one is going to make you feel bad because you don’t want to leave the house. No one will smack the stuffing out of your mouth and demand that you go spend money. But for those who want to shop, who do you think you are to tell them they can’t? And who are you to tell a business they can’t accept a willing shopper’s money?

This all boils down to your not seeing eye to eye with a business about the hours they wish to operate. How much sense does that make? Do you boycott your bank for closing at 5 each day? (Don’t you hate that?! It’s so inconvenient!) Law enforcement and emergency personnel have to work on Thanksgiving, despite the fact they have families who likely eat Thanksgiving dinner too. I don’t believe if your kitchen goes up in flames because you tried to deep-fry a frozen turkey you’re going to stop and say “No, don’t call 911 because they shouldn’t have to work today.”

Your feelings or values or opinions don’t determine what happens in the world. You don’t get to decide who should or shouldn’t have to work on a holiday. If you own a business, you can choose not to be open, but you don’t get to tell me that my business must be closed. It’s mean-spirited to try to convince others they should boycott a business just because you don’t like them being open on a particular day. To celebrate Thanksgiving, how about being thankful we live in a nation where a business owner has the freedom to open whenever he or she wishes?

-J

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~ by hamiltonjacobs on November 9, 2014.

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