Thanksgiving should be for family, not for sale
As an enthusiastic supporter of the free market, I love watching its wheels churn during the holiday shopping season as retailers compete for business with door buster deals and sales gimmicks. Retail stores compete with each other to attract shoppers during the multi-billion dollar buying frenzy, but in our excitement and zeal for bargains, one of the biggest markdowns of all is located in the ‘values’ aisle, right between family and faith.
Gone are the days when America closed down for Thanksgiving so employees could be with their families. No need to cook a delicious turkey with all the trimmings this Thanksgiving. Your local McDonalds and Burger King will be open to serve you burgers and fries. There was a time when fast food establishments opened for breakfast only, giving staff the opportunity to spend the afternoon and evening in celebration with friends and family. But today, chances are these franchises have barely curtailed their regular operating hours, keeping workers separated from loved ones.
Retailers opening early on the Friday after Thanksgiving— Black Friday—have been a fun tradition for decades. While dad and grandpa watched football before the Thanksgiving feast, mom and grandma would put the Christmas shopping list together—plotting the most productive shopping course beginning early the next morning. This Thanksgiving, families may be meeting at Burger King to scarf down a Whopper before hitting the stores.
This holiday season, let’s be cognizant of what messages we send our children and retail employees, the majority of whom are earning just over minimum wage. Are we telling them that sale prices are more important than family and giving thanks?
By no means do I want anyone telling Wal-Mart and McDonalds how to run their business. But the hallmark and the genius of the free market is that it is a two-way street. Businesses have to operate in a manner that attracts consumers. Americans love a bargain, but we also value family. It’s up to consumers to show that we can and will wait that extra twenty-four hours to hit the sale racks.
I hope holiday shoppers take time this Thursday to enjoy Thanksgiving with their famies. The sales will still be there the next day and the day after, and so on, for the next month. Let’s send a message to our children that the holidays are about family and faith. We also need to tell the average American worker that they too should have the opportunity to enjoy the nation’s day of thanks with their loved ones.
Jason Stverak is the President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.