Like the Cold War arms race, retailers' assault on
They join Wal-Mart, which has always been open during Thanksgiving but which this year will be pumping up its holiday discounts to lure determined bargain-hunters into the stores. Plan on consuming a heaping helping of reports and videos of Thanksgiving Day mayhem, some of it possibly lethal, with your turkey leftovers next Friday.
The Thanksgiving Day openings are merely a line extension of
The door-buster deals always have the aroma about them of traps for the unwary. True values on desirable products are few and far between. For the most part they seem to be discounts on off-brand merchandise -- not necessarily anything to sneeze at if you're looking for a flat-screen TV on a budget, but not quite the same thing as getting in on
There's also reason to wonder whether the marginal hour openings really are profitable for the stores, or whether those that open early are doing so because their rivals are -- that is, if all electronics or clothes retailers declared multilateral cease-fires, would their total holiday sales really suffer?
Thanksgiving Day openings are even more questionable. The
It's now conceivable, however, that we've reached peak Thanksgiving Day retailing. The sudden proliferation of holiday openings has helped focus attention on the nickel-and-diming of low-wage retail clerks by hugely profitable retail chains. Wal-Mart, naturally enough, has received a good share of the brickbats, possibly because of the sheer fatuousness of one executive's claim that "Wal-Mart associates are really excited to work that day."
He seemed to be suggesting that the extra day's pay and turkey dinner they got for the privilege more than compensated for missing a traditional family gathering, but it's fair to assume that average Wal-Mart low-wage employees aren't that excited by the perks, any more than they're fooled by being called "associates" instead of "employees."
Any decent union contract would award employees double time and a half, or better, to be called in to work on a national holiday. That alone would suppress retail managements' invasion of the holiday with relentless hawking of merchandise. But union representation of retail clerks is almost invisible, which is why the clerks can't make a living wage and get pressured into leaving their families on what used to be one of the few days of respite from work on the calendar. This year you can count on one hand the major retailers that are taking a stand against hours, including Nordstrom and