Jessie here. Over the past several years, more and more large chain retailers decide to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. This year, Kmart is the consumerism trendsetter, remaining open from 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning until 11 p.m. Black Friday night. But they’re not alone — many other national stores will be open at some point on Thanksgiving, including Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, and Kohl’s.
In my opinion — but not Bair’s, as you’ll read later — it’s obviously consumers’ selfishness and retailers’ greed that have opened doors for shopping on a day that’s meant for gratitude. And just as obvious, some establishments have to remain open — Stamford Hospital can’t just send all the nurses, doctors, and CNAs home for the day to enjoy dinner with their families. But what about everyone in between? Lots of restaurants are open on Thanksgiving and no one writes angry blog posts about that. My friend and fellow Junk Bird Jim Clegg works for A&E; since TV doesn’t magically stop on Turkey Day, he has missed many a holiday dinner to make sure commercials play at the right time during Ancient Aliens. (“Or is it possible that the Pilgrims were… VISITORS FROM ANOTHER PLANET?”) Where’s the outrage for Jim?
I’m not sure what the answer is here, but I do know that the only place I’m going on Thanksgiving is my grandma’s house. When I put forth the idea of writing round-table column about Thanksgiving hours, Vanessa and Bair quickly stepped to the plate. Let’s see what they have to say…
Being married to a firefighter I had to spend quite a few holidays without him. Usually I went to my brother’s, which meant eating at a nice restaurant or a fancy hotel. I have also had to work on Christmas. I spent 7 years doing the Christmas show at The Spinning Wheel Inn in Redding, so I worked quite a few Christmas Eves and days. Somehow, the big box retailers being open on Thanksgiving is way different in my book. Of course, we need firefighters 24/7 — same for toll collectors, nurses, maybe even convenience stores. But Kmart? Those poor employees are making minimum wage; even if they got time and a half or double time it is hardly worth missing out on family time. Forget family time, it’s hardly worth the risk of getting trampled to death by a bunch of idiot shoppers. That, I think, is the real issue here. The holiday season is nothing more than a push for sales. Between the TV ads for crap toys, the print ads for crap appliances (50 bucks for a frozen pizza cooker? We already have one. It’s called an oven.), and the traffic caused by the sheep running out to buy these things, it seems the “real” purpose of the holiday gets lost.
I put real in quotes because everyone has a different idea of what the holidays mean and why we celebrate them. I doubt the Pagans were worried about what they’d get their Uncle Odin. And if you’re celebrating Jesus’s birthday, why aren’t you buying him a gift? If the holidays are really about spending time with family, why does that need to include buying them shit?
Thanksgiving should be spent with family celebrating our genocide of the Native Americans. Hmm. Maybe that’s exactly it. Maybe, by opening stores on Thanksgiving, stores that are manned by our current society’s low men on the totem pole, maybe that’s how white collar America plans to get rid of the poor working man. One big screen TV trample at a time.
I’m a Connecticut resident who lived in Manhattan for the last five years. What should have been my most virile and productive period was spent slaving away in the food service industry in tourist-heavy Midtown. I was accommodating everyone from around the world who was actually out enjoying themselves, soaking in what the outside world thinks is New York City. They went to New York FOR the holiday; to them, Thanksgiving WAS being in NYC. And I’m proud to have been a part of that. I’ve worked every holiday you can name. And that path, leading to the man I am today… I don’t regret a second.
I opened Ruby Tuesday’s flagship location in Times Square and later moved on to work in one of the highest-volume restaurants in the entire world, Carmine’s. I will tell you this: the people I worked with at those restaurants were my family, as far as my time in New York goes. If anything, I’m sore that I won’t get to taste Carmine’s fennel-pork-sausage stuffing this year!
Anyone from a ‘traditional’ family setting will tell you that Thanksgiving is for being with your loved ones, your closest, your fam. I was required to work, yes. On a holiday, yes. To benefit those who chose to shop and frolic instead of stay at their own homes, yes. But you know what? I worked side by side with the people I always worked side by side with, I ate Thanksgiving dinner with the same faces that welcomed me every day and with whom I shared a beer every night. The girls I never wanted to see again, the guys I almost got into a fight with, the families of my friends who came in to visit for the holiday, the managers who were often disagreeable but on Thanksgiving weren’t with their families… They were with us. We were family, and we celebrated together.
You don’t know what’s up until you’ve seen the General Manager of the flagship location of one of the world’s largest casual dining chains, taking what ingredients he could from the coffers. Deep-frying the turkeys where otherwise you cook chicken tenders. Making real mashed potatoes while the store’s mass-produced mashed potatoes stayed on the shelf, ready to zap. This guy made homestyle gravy, stuffing, there was actual homemade cranberry sauce, he did it all. Big ups to Jeff Gabriel, Jose Contreras, and that initial Ruby Tuesday staff; droppin’ bombs for those of us from Ohio, New Jersey, California… All displaced, the Island of Misfit Toys still got their Thanksgiving.
I could go on for a while; if anyone wants an extended version, by all means I’ll field and encourage requests. But this is for a collective article so I gots to keep it down: those among us who are forwarding this disgusting post, saying that working on Thanksgiving is… What, a sin? ‘I boycott all shopping on Thanksgiving because my whitebread family will be mad if I don’t make it to dinner on time’? Go fuck yourselves. The stores that are open on Thanksgiving are accommodating people who DO want to be out shopping. And the people who are working? The single mother who needs the holiday overtime? The struggling student who can catch up with Nan & Gramps after dinner? The lonely cashier who didn’t have anywhere else to go? You can stay home, Facebook-posting asshole, but let them work if they want to.
Jessie again. My favorite thing about these round-table articles is finding out everyone else’s opinion. For instance, I assumed that Bair would rail against work on Thanksgiving, but he did just the opposite. I understand his point, but I still don’t agree with him. Part of the reason I’ll be one of those ‘Facebook-posting assholes’ is because I feel like nothing in our culture is sacred anymore. Who needs a special day with Grandma? That’s only for the upper-middle class. Why shouldn’t that single mom earn some holiday overtime? It’s not like the giant corporation she works for is required to pay her a living wage. Nothing in America is for everybody, and there’s nothing that can’t be put on hold in favor of the Almighty Dollar.
Wait, no — there’s still Christmas! The one day a year where slightly more people spend time with their families than on Thanksgiving, so they can give each other all the shit they bought…
Will you be shopping on Thanksgiving, or working? Or will you be one of the white-bread, white-collar bourgeoisie eating dinner with their families? Leave a comment or email us!