When Black Friday Comes

So it’s Thanksgiving morning. You stumble out of bed and head to the bathroom to pee. Push the handle and away it goes (where does it go, anyway?) Better head to the kitchen and get the coffee on. While it’s brewing maybe a hot shower – love that gas water heater, I mean, it HEATS the water, and lots of it. Now time to enjoy a cup o’ joe and some breakfast while catching up with the morning news shows.    

It’s Thanksgiving, and already there is much to be thankful for. Not two hours out of bed and the folks at EPB, TVA, your local water company, the sewer treatment plant, the gas company, your cable provider plus the entire cast, crew and maintenance people at whatever station you watched got up and did their jobs for you. On a holiday – imagine that!     

Back in the day you had to take care of business during, well, business hours. My dad used to say they “rolled up the sidewalks” at 5:00 PM in Elizabethtown, KY. When I moved to Tennessee in 1995 and went to work at Charlie Rogers Ford the owner, Charlie, told me that “if I ever have to open on Sunday it’s time to sell the business.” I don’t think religion was driving that statement – Charlie knew you needed downtime, and not just people, but businesses too.    

We live in different times. Convenience stores don’t need locks – they never close. Sunday is just another day of the week. Holidays are opportunities for profit. Part of that is driven by changing mores. Part of that is driven by customer demand. Part of that is driven by a burgeoning and diverse population. I don’t think any of it is driven by “greed” – it’s just too easy to blame it on some straw man trying to squeeze profits. Businesses – local businesses, brick-and-mortar businesses – are just trying to compete for an ever-decreasing slice of the pie made smaller by a 24/7 economy driven by the internet. The holiday season accounts for 30%+ of their annual profits. What are they going to do?    

But wait – you just choked on your bacon while watching Fox & Friends. Fortunately your spouse is handy and calls 911 – the call goes through because your cellular provider is at work keeping the system working (it will be a long day – these holidays are murder on phone systems with everybody calling Mom). The dispatcher came to work on time and is able to send out EMS. As is usual, a police car shows up too. As they Heimlich the bacon out of your throat you give thanks – that the service providers, the staff, the first responders all chose to do their job even though they will be missing spending the day with their families.    

It’s a complicated world out there folks. We can’t just demand a store close, pledge to not shop on Thanksgiving, sign a petition. The genie is out of the bottle, Pandora’s box is open. No one is out to get you, management doesn’t hate your family, and the Waltons can never spend all the money they (rightfully) have anyway. Here’s a thought – maybe they actually care about you. Maybe they care that the store makes money, that your business survives. Maybe they are doing what business owners have done since time immemorial: making sure the doors stay open.    

But hold that thought.    

In the last few years my wife, along with hundreds of thousands of other brave men and women, spent not one but two complete holiday seasons overseas. Not in Paris or Rome either but in crude accommodations in the desert. They wore cammies, carried guns, did boring jobs and dangerous jobs and thankless jobs. Work on holidays? What’s a holiday in a 24/7 up-tempo military deployment? Oh, that’s when they serve turkey in the mess tent. Sign a petition? Boycott the war? Call in sick? Never entered their mind. It’s why we honor service men and women – they do what we won’t. Working at Wal-Mart is looking better all the time…    

But let’s say you convince your employer of the moral necessity of closing on holidays. What are you going to do at home? Watch football on TV? Do you have any idea how many folks that means have to go to work? Stadium staff, security, food service, clean up crew, television crews, the players, the coaching staff, the referees. You’ll need more police in the streets for crowd control too.    

I think you get my point.    

If you have a job, be thankful. I know it’s tough – I made my living on straight commission for over 25 years, I’ve sold both cars and houses on Thanksgiving. I not only don’t want to work on holidays, I don’t want to work at night or weekends either. Or ever, truth be told. But it’s what we do.    

And if you really want to take the moral high ground – then work in someone’s place, someone with a young family at home so they can enjoy the day. You will be like those first responders, the military and the myriad service providers: you will be putting someone else’s comfort and needs above your own.    

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the holidays – whenever you can!

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