Early Black Friday idea is a turkey

Michelle Singletary
Columnist November 15, 2011

If you’re like me, at midnight on Thanksgiving you’re either in bed or getting ready for bed after enjoying a day with your family. But several major retailers have said they will open for business at that hour to sell to shoppers wanting to get a jump on the bargains. If the trend continues, Black Friday will become Black Thursday.

And that’s not a good thing.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.” View Archive

Target, Macy’s, Best Buy and others have decided to open at midnight to begin Black Friday. Best Buy called its move “historic.”

Really? Historic?

Toys R Us, not to be outdone by its retail rivals, will open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving. And Wal-Mart, the mascot store for penny-pinchers, is opening at 10 p.m. “Our customers told us they would rather stay up late to shop than get up early,” said Duncan Mac Naughton, Wal-Mart’s chief merchandising officer.

All of these earlier openings mean that employees will be pulled away from their families. Anthony Hardwick, an Omaha-based Target employee, isn’t happy with the earlier hours. “I’m going to have to go to sleep at 2 or 3 in the afternoon so I can be well-rested to deal with the controlled mayhem of the Black Friday rush,” said Hardwick, who says he’ll miss spending Thanksgiving with his fiancee. He works part time at Target as a cart attendant. He’ll leave that shift to go work at 5 a.m. at his full-time job at Office Max, he said.

Hardwick started a petition drive on Change.org to try to persuade Target to abandon its plans for a midnight opening. When I last checked, he had more than 60,000 signatures for his campaign.

“Thanksgiving is about family and spending quality time with the people you love,” Hardwick said in an interview.

Molly Snyder, a communications manager for Target, said in an e-mail that the retailer does its best to work around the schedules of its employees, “making every effort to accommodate their plans.” She said, “Target will offer holiday pay to all hourly team members who work on Thanksgiving day.”

In addition to Hardwick’s campaign, there are more than 25 other petitions on Change.org calling for a boycott of Black Friday or asking retailers to reverse their decisions to start Black Friday at earlier times.

People, please stay home. Let the folks who stock the shelves, retrieve your shopping carts from the parking lot and ring up your purchases have some peace. Black Friday is the shopping equivalent of running with the bulls. It has become an uncivilized scene with people lining up in the wee hours of the morning fighting, shoving and, in one case, trampling a man to death — all in the pursuit of a deep discount. And now retailers feel they have to start this madness even sooner?

In the grand scheme of things, this won’t shake the country’s core. We’ve got so many other things to concern us — two wars, high unemployment, runaway deficits and debt.

Maybe there are some employees who would welcome the extra hours of pay, but I think the early store openings continue to speak to our financially unhealthy obsession with shopping.

In the headline trumpeting its midnight opening, Kohl’s said that it wants to provide a “convenient shopping experience for customers who ‘love to give’ and are ‘happy to save.’ ” Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, said: “The state of the economy will definitely affect how consumers plan and shop this holiday. We understand they feel pressure to find the best gifts at an incredible value.”

He’s right about the pressure. It’s still there despite the economy. We still love to spend money that probably could best be used to boost an emergency fund, save for college or pay down college debt, make extra payments on a mortgage or give to a well-run charity.

“By sharing our Black Friday specials earlier than ever, we hope to make buying decisions easier for parents working hard to give their families the Christmas they deserve,” Naughton of Wal-Mart said.

See, that’s just it. What on earth do any of us need to buy on the special day (and night) we as a nation have purposefully set aside for family time?

And let me throw this in for free.

The fact is, you never save when you spend, regardless of whether you’re shopping regular store hours or when you should be in bed. You are spending less than a product might cost retail, but you are not saving. Saving is an act signified by the absence of spending.

Readers can write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Her e-mail address is singletarym@washpost.com. Questions are welcomed, but because of the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible.

More on Black Friday:

Daily deals and the demise of Black Friday

Retailers race to leak Black Friday deals

Holidays call for extra security vigilance

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