Valerie Brunmeier of San Jose plans a festive feast for her family on Thanksgiving, but two of her sons will have to hustle off to their retail jobs at local malls later that night.

"How do you relax when you know you're heading out the door at 10 p.m. or so to go to work, and work all night long?" she said.

This year more big-box stores than ever are opening on Thanksgiving night to get a leg up on Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

Target, Best Buy, Kohl's, Gap, Walmart, Toys R Us and Macy's are among the major retailers that plan to fling open their doors early this season. Some stores plan to open at 8 or 9 p.m. Thursday, while others will open a few hours later at the stroke of midnight, trying to jump-start sales amid an uncertain economic climate.

But the early openings have prompted a backlash by consumers and store employees, who say Thanksgiving should be reserved for family time, and it's unfair to compel people to work on a major holiday.

Anthony Hardwick, a Target employee in Omaha, Neb., started a petition on Change.org protesting the chain's plan to open at midnight on Thanksgiving. It went viral, attracting more than 180,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon, and has spurred dozens of copycat petitions addressing other stores.

"A midnight opening robs the hourly and in-store salary workers of time off with their families on Thanksgiving Day," it says.

Target, which has found itself the subject of dozens of media reports on the backlash, issued a lengthy Q&A about Black Friday. It said the midnight opening was prompted by feedback that some customers prefer to shop that night rather than waking up early for crack-of-dawn sales.

"Opening at midnight on Black Friday wasn't a decision we took lightly," wrote Tina Schiel, Target executive vice president of stores. "We heard from our guests and talked to our teams, seeking to understand how changing the hours would impact them. We heard overwhelming support for the earlier opening."

Backlash 'insane'

Helen Bulwik, president of New Market Solutions, a retail consultancy in Oakland, didn't mince words about the backlash, using the words "ridiculous" and "insane" to describe it.

"The reality is, a business needs to have the hours it needs to have," she said. "To try to dictate when a store can open just makes no sense. We want people to buy and we want people to have jobs."

In the face of high unemployment, "retailers will have to struggle for every single dollar they bring in," she said.

Hence the Thanksgiving openings.

"They're totally based on getting a competitive advantage," Bulwik said. "We all know that people are not buying as much and there may be fewer people buying. Stores are trying to be the first movers to capture those customers."

The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales this year to hit $465.6 billion, up 2.8 percent from last year. That growth slightly outpaces the average holiday sales annual increase of 2.6 percent, NRF said, but lags last year's 5.2 percent increase from 2009.

Black Friday deals

Black Friday weekend (Friday through Sunday), when stores trot out special deals on everything from cell phones to scooters to sweaters, will draw 152 million people, up from 138 million last year, according to a survey commissioned by the trade group.

"We fully expect to see excited shoppers as early as midnight at stores around the country, as many holiday shoppers would rather stay up all night to take advantage of retailers' Black Friday deals rather than set their alarm to wake up the next morning," NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

But a number of Bay Area residents said they would opt out of Thanksgiving shopping and hoped stores would too.

"Particularly on a day when we're supposed to be thankful for what we have, to open a place to go and get more stuff seems to be against the spirit of Thanksgiving," said Ally Press of San Francisco, who works in online marketing and signed the Change.org petition. "It's excessive."

Online protests

Brunmeier, the San Jose woman whose sons must work early Black Friday shifts, is part of an online movement called "Respect the Bird," started by cooking site AllRecipes.com, that seeks to keep December holidays from overshadowing Thanksgiving.

"We want to get rid of that whole thing about having Christmas music starting in stores in October," she said.

E-mail Carolyn Said at csaid@sfchronicle.com.


What do you think of Black Friday Shopping?
Or do you wait for Cyber Monday?

Views: 159

Replies to This Discussion

I don't shop in person anymore.  And since my JW sister doesn't "do" xmas (actually I have no memory of her ever giving anybody a gift in her life, even before she joined that cult), I don't do it either.  I pay the utility and maintenance bills, and buy most of the groceries, and there's never anything left after that.

The only reason I even notice "Black Friday" at all is noise of the early-morning news choppers hovering over a large shopping center about a mile from our house, hoping for blood and guts as shoppers fight to get through the doors first.

It IS insane.

PS: The airport where all the local (and network) stations keep their chopers is also about a mile from our house, in another direction.  LOTS of noise.

Yes, I agree it is insane. I just buy online -- I actually hate going out shopping -- especially with crowds and lines.

I understand why it's called "Black Friday" ... it's the beginning of the time of year when retailers finally start showing a profit on sales; black ink instead of red.  But do they have to make it all up on one day?

It's a major symptom of what's wrong with the USA - GREED!  And the same can be said for the most rabid shoppers.  They all want a wide-screen TV for $10.  Like that's a necessity. 

Disgusting. 

It doesn't say in the article whether or not the employees who have to go to work before they've even digested their dinners get paid overtime for that. 

I know WalMart will go to great lengths to avoid paying their people fairly. We fought to keep them out of Burbank for years, but they finally slithered in by having a 3rd party buy the lease of a store that was going out of business.  Acres and acres of Chinese sleaze.  Gack.

(I'm grumpy tonight...just looked in the fridge and the cupboards, and I didn't see anything I wanted to eat.  Oatmeal, agan.  *sigh*)

Yeah - it is GREED -- I read online that some people were calling this ThanksGETTING. I don't understand why it all has to be in one day either. I would think they would spread it out -- maybe get more money that way. 

I avoid those events. I went to one, once and they had few of the advertised special items, which were grabbed by the very first customers. It was a stressful waste of my time. We sometimes take advantage of online Cyber Monday sales.

Ruth, I agree -- Cyber Monday is the way to go to take advantage of any sales. Those Black Friday events are insane and a waste of time. I avoid them too.

I went last year to Wal-mart with my sister to play bodyguard(at 350lbs, even if I'm not over 5 foot 8, I still cut a menacing figure) while she got the biggest/most popular deal at our small-town(less than 10,000 people) wal-mart.

Panda-fucking-monium.

at one point, 200 people are in the line, it's 4am, and they're already in line for what they think is the area where the tvs will be given out. So they see the Wal-mart employee that they think has the tickets for the tv's, and freak the hell out! The employee moves down one aisle, and it seems like the aisle holding the line may move--or one person thought it did, and then EVERYONE--all 200+ people, tried to move into an already-crammed with sale pallets main aisle---at once, several carts got shoved, people were pushed into pallets, everyone got violent, and suddenly the line was all a mass of panicked, stupid people trying to get to the front of the line for a cheap tv.

My sister nearly had a heart attack--she was in the middle of the line.

And at one point, some flyer came up, of all the deals, and someone in the line screamed "You need one of the fliers to get the tv!", I suppose, hoping that everyone would leave the line to go get one. That's not what happened. They would send one of a group to get like 5 or 6 fliers--I was sent to get one for my sister, then of course, the fliers weren't needed--they were just a record of what was being put on sale at 5am, and printed in black and white on copy paper--nothing special. There ended up being an instant leaffall of them, as people randomly dumped handfulls of them on the ground, because there was an assumption that it was one flier per tv you're buying.

All this for $150 cheap HD LCD tv's, that I honestly thought wasn't worth it(horrible, grainy picture quality, off-brand tv, no decent reviews found of it online). My sister could have been injured or possibly killed at several points by the mad rush(one at midnight for pallets full of things like cheap tool chests, where people ended up being grabby and panicking when others started reaching for things they wanted....nevermind there were entire pallets of the things). And a second for the tv's. TV's are the big ticket item, sadly enough, there wasn't anyone in line for the digital camera or a bunch of other stuff that Wal-mart put on sale at 5am--just 200 people who all wanted the cheapest, largest tv(not even ten people wanted the $400 tv, that was actually the same size but a much better brand/quality of make).

 

I did go clothing shopping that day around 9am with my mom because she offered to take us, but we went to Dirt Cheap, which didn't do any special sales, they were just open for regular business. I did find some nice warddrobe staples, though.

Really, just one taste of the madness and danger was enough--although I could see that for many people, they weren't used to this rush of adrenaline from feeling actual fear from mobs of people--I am used to it, also, I get my adrenaline rushes from video games--which are much safer than dashing for sales. I've heard all sorts of madness/horror stories, you could almost write a dark comedy about Black Friday Sales--like the psycho from the Target commercials, only she drags her daughter and sons along to carry things for her as she insists on getting all her christmas shopping done THAT DAY, while they have to hit every crazy store in town, with an itemized list of all the stuff she wants to get, complete with the mom cursing out a manager or store employee for not having enough cashmere sweaters or electric griddles in stock for HER to get one.

And that was a small wal-mart, in a small town, a wal-mart that isn't even open 24 hours(it closes at 11pm, normally). I'd hate to see what the Tuscaloosa Wal-mart was like, or what the Tuscaloosa Target looked like.

The problem that has become Black Friday sales is summed up in this one story, perfectly(I shall stress this did not happen to me and is simply hearsay that I got last Black Friday--but it's still amazing):


So we(my mom and I) circled around the Target parking lot several times--it was about 6am, and we figured that's only an hour after it opened, it'll have cleared out some, right? Wrong. We finally found a spot, and parked in it, and when we get out a woman in a minivan rev's her car up to us, and says 'That was my spot. You fucking get out of my spot.' We said "We're already parked, and we didn't see you waiting."

"I could fucking kill you right now, and run you both over." The minivan woman said.

"But then you'd go to jail, and miss out on all the deals inside."

This made the minivan woman actually stop and think for a minute.

Then she said.

"But you'd still be dead!"

And she revved her minivan one last time, and sped off into the parking lot, presumably to verbally threaten someone else for their parking spot.

 

When this is what it turns people into, we have a problem.

I won't be leaving my house this Friday. Hopefully my boye needlemaster arrives by then and I'll be knitting something or playing my MMO.

 

Jonel thanks for telling your story. That shopping on Black Friday sounds terrible. I don't think I'm missing out on anything -- in fact I would rather pay more than have to go through all that.

Yeah, I agree people have a problem with materialism - always trying to get more and more.

Unfortunately for your average mom, rather than playing paintball, or playing L4D2, this is HER gauntlet, her video games, her buy and reward and lizard brain adrenaline rush thing, and really, trying to explain this to any of them is impossible, but it's exactly what they are doing.

 

Nothing that Wal-Mart or Target is selling is going to be unavailable at a similar price point online. Unfortunately, a lot of people are lazy, or just plain stupid and are convinced the best and only sales are in the actual department stores.

I really do think it's a combination of the rush people feel when they're in actual danger, and the plain foolishness that the deal is impossible to get anywhere else.

I didn't even bring the employees into the equation, your article already showed their point of view--missing out on sleep, family gatherings, and actually being in danger of trampling from crazy people who go out for this kind of stuff.

Like the article says, these places are vying for a limited resource--our money, and I'm not giving it to places that treat their employees like crap and put their customers in danger if I can help it.

I actually think the companies do the limited deals on purpose--it's to create a sense of competition, of urgency, so when there's 20 tv's and you don't get one, oh well, but hey, here's a toaster on sale, wouldn't that be useful too? Act fast though!

A friend of my sister's also bought a memory card for her camera that day--$16, 4gb....I tried to explain to her before she bought it that Amazon would have it for a 1/4th of that price, but nope. Instant reward was apparently more important than paying a decent price for an SDHD card.

Nobody listened when I explained that the prices were replicable online, either. So I'm guessing most people are a.) too lazy to find similar deals online--the wal-mart deals are right there, in front of them! or b.) just plain stupid and don't realize that it's easier, and safer, and makes more sense to buy it online--because you wouldn't be risking your life, you might actually get a better quality tv, and you wouldn't be buying 3rd-rate off-brand appliances from a major retailer that treats their employees like crap.

I agree Jonel. They are too big of a hurry to get the deals now that they don't realize they can stay home and just order online for the same prices. Just insane!

No! No shopping at large box stores on Black Friday or Cyber Monday or any other day until unemployment returns to below 5%.  There is no need to purchase necessities at large stores, there are supplies locally, small business operations, that will do me very well, thank you.  Take money out of big banks and put them in local banks or unions, don't spend money in places that contribute to present conditions, such as from far distant places.  Buy locally and live better, healthier, happier in our communities.  

 

The principle is BOYCOTT!   BOYCOTT!   BOYCOTT!

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