Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Retail on Thanksgiving

When I was in Boston last week, I read a Globe article on how various national retailers scheduled their Black Friday opening this year at midnight...and then quickly had to change plans when someone told them doing so in Massachusetts would be illegal.

You see, in Massachusetts, working on Thanksgiving (and I believe Christmas) is generally not allowed (there are exceptions for restaurants and such). So opening at midnight would require workers to clock in on Thanksgiving to set up, and that is illegal. They've all moved their opening times forward to around 1am, store depending.

While many scoffed at these blue laws interfering with the private market place, I applaud this particular regulation. Quite frankly, the US has a horrible work culture when it comes to giving people time off, and a huge portion of this is how retail workers and all their support staff (cleaners etc) are generally invisible to huge portions of the population.

Many say: Let the free market decide. If people think it's unfair to have to clock in at 10pm on Thanksgiving, then the market will take care of that. If the employee doesn't like it, they can quit. (Because obviously the employee doesn't need money and is doing it for fun.)

And we need to consider how the market can be quite ignorant about the world outside their bubble.

Let me put it like this: Have you ever heard or read someone comment on how there's no reason someone should be out at 3am? The person making such comment obviously assumes that 24 hour fast food places are staffed with robots, and that hospitals do not operate past visiting hours. Or when a large city discusses the operating hours of their transit? Some quickly come in and say we shouldn't spend tax money supporting "partiers" riding a 2am train....when it ignores the thousands and thousands of people who work and bars and clubs and such and just want to get home. Another example would be an article I highlighted last month about a Fresno neighborhood suspicious of people on bikes at "odd" hours. These people live comfortable lives where work is done at 5pm, and one never works on a holiday.

If only we could all be so lucky.

So yes, I support regulation like this, even if it is a bit heavy handed. I have found myself on the wrong type of this kind of law, when I was in Switzerland, in a canton that restricts retail hours heavily. From Saturday at 5pm until Monday at noon, the only retail location open, besides restaurants, was the train station market. This ruined some plans, but only because I didn't do advance reaserch on the subject.

Unfortunately, it takes this kind of regulation to clobber people over the head and remind them that those last minutes shopping trips at 5pm on Thanksgiving include ruining someones holiday.

So dear readers, enjoy your Thanksgiving, and please try avoid doing any type of shopping on turkey day. The executives setting the hours probably haven't been in the office since last Friday, but their decision, and your patronage, means hundreds of thousands of people are stuck in retail hell on the one day a year this country is supposed to be coming together to celebrate. And that's just not very nice.


(I am now back in Fresno, so this blog shall hopefully be updated more frequently again)

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