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Don't let Kmart spoil Thanksgiving

Remember Thanksgiving? The American holiday that, despite its misbegotten roots, we celebrate by taking the day off from work and overindulging with family and friends before putting on sweat pants and declaring to never eat so much food again?

That tradition may become a distant memory if aggressive retailers succeed in their “war on Thanksgiving.”

It used to be that the holiday shopping season started the day after Thanksgiving with Black Friday, when retailers lured frenzied bargain hunters with deals galore. But then the economy tanked and the pressure to compete for consumer dollars went into high gear.

As economist Paul Dales told the New York Times: “History shows that people only have so much money to spend during the holidays. […] And if they spend more of it on Black Friday, they’ll probably spend less of it later in the season.”

Now retailers, eager to get to consumers’ wallets first, are kicking off the season of spending earlier and earlier. Increasingly, stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s are cutting the Turkey Day festivities short by opening at 8 p.m. the night before Black Friday. And this year, Kmart will open its doors to shoppers at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning — and stay open for 41 hours straight.

But is Kmart so desperate for business that it finds it necessary to open before sunrise on a national holiday, robbing its workers and customers of one of the few national holidays when most people actually get the day off?

True, holidays built around family time are not a joy for everyone. Arguing that some people may actually appreciate the respite from holiday obligations, the Huffington Post’s Ann Brenoff dispenses this reality check: “Not everyone enjoys the company of their family, and if the stores turn out to be packed on Nov. 28, I would have to say that there are a lot of people — retail workers and otherwise — who appreciate having an alternative to watching Uncle Ted pass out drunk on the couch.”

She makes a good point, but I’m more inclined to side with the backlash. We are not a culture that’s particularly good at taking a break or unplugging. I mean, we live in a world where this was good news. Kmart shouldn’t siphon away the very little bit of free time we have left.

Obviously, this is a tough economy and retailers have to take advantage of consumers during the holiday shopping season. If dedicating a day to discounted gifts helps accomplish that, great. But why not choose another day before Thanksgiving?

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