Brown Thursday?

In 2013, Thanksgiving was given the title, "Brown Thursday". This had nothing to do with the color of turkey or gravy. It was due to retailers opening their doors for business on the national holiday. Here comes my soapbox.

I'm a 20+ year veteran of retail management or ownership. When I started out, the thought of working on Thanksgiving was never a concern. You could guarantee the day would be spent relaxing with family and friends. It was a much needed break for every associate right before the busiest season of the year. Not anymore.

I'll admit, I've done my fair share of Black Friday shopping. I've stood in lines before the sun came up to purchase a doorbuster special. I've arrived at work before 4am to work a 14-18 hour shift on a Black Friday. I even enjoyed working Black Friday. There was a special excitement in the air as the holiday season was ushered in with crowds and activity. I realize that could be considered a tad crazy, but those with the retail bug understood and shared the thrill, if only a little.

While I was away from the retail world teaching music to elementary students, the Black Friday hours of operation began earlier each year. Over time, they crept into the beloved Turkey Day. Upon going back to my retail roots, I found that Thanksgiving had become just another day of work. Sure, the associates were paid a little extra for working on a holiday, but salaried managers weren't. I asked for volunteers to work on Thanksgiving at first, trying to let those that wanted the extra money get the shifts. There were always a few takers, but others had to be scheduled that didn't make the request. Thursdays were the standard day off for store management, so I was not scheduled, but felt such guilt that I went in to help out for a few hours during the day. It put quite the damper on those Thanksgivings.

The revenue received barely compensated for the payroll and overhead spent to open the doors. What it did to the store morale was even worse! Going into the holidays with disgruntled employees did nothing for customer service, team building, or efficient productivity. The staff was also certain that those high on the corporate ladder who made the choice to open the stores on Thanksgiving were not actually working the holiday. The pictures that came afterwards via email to "wish all the employees a Happy Thanksgiving and successful Christmas season" supported that theory. It felt like money was more important than people. No wonder customers were greeted with tired, frustrated staff members. There was no break and they didn't feel valued.

I understood that making the choice to work in retail included long hours and dealing with hectic holiday seasons. However, at that time Thanksgiving was a treasured and needed day of rest that we could count on. Since becoming "Brown Thursday", a few stores have realized this and gone back to remaining closed until Black Friday. Cheers to them! I wish them nothing but success for placing importance on their employees. My prayer is that more will follow their lead and change "Brown Thursday" back to Thanksgiving.

As you gear up for holiday shopping this year, please try to avoid shopping on Thanksgiving. Money talks in the retail world, and if there isn't enough coming in, the doors will close once more and Thanksgiving will be spared the agony of becoming another non-observed national holiday. If trends continue, Christmas and Easter will be on the chopping block soon. In some companies, they have already been cancelled and are just another work day. So eat your turkey, sit back and watch some football, and enjoy a day of relaxation. The retail workers will thank you. Black Friday will come soon enough.

Save Thanksgiving!

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