If you’re shopping on Thanksgiving, be kind to workers

Nov. 23, 2013 @ 05:37 PM

I’m sure you’ve heard about big box stores opening on Thanksgiving Day rather than waiting for the dark early morning hours of Black Friday to open their doors to shoppers. Maybe you plan to take advantage of the door busting deals after dinner, or maybe you’d rather sit on your couch. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re among those who are encouraging other shoppers to stay home so store workers could stay home, too. But they didn’t make the call, their employers did. And the market.

Look, a lot of jobs require working on a holiday, at least occasionally -- public safety, hospitals, restaurants, gas stations, stores and media. I take my turn here at the newspaper just like everyone else. And 20 years ago, I worked a minimum wage job on Christmas night as an 18-year-old college freshman. Of course that was the year we had a white Christmas, so my dad had to drive in the snow to pick me up and crawl back home on snowy roads. It taught me that I did not want a career working a movie theater concession stand for one, but also hopefully made me a much nicer customer every single time I’ve gone to the movies thereafter. Because I’ve been there. I wore the bowtie and the nametag and listened to people complain about the price of popcorn. (If it’s too expensive, then why are you buying it?) That wasn’t as bad as the dead rat under the counter or the mutiny the employees waged on a manager, but that’s a story for another time. I’ve also been a waitress serving the families of college football coaches on Easter Sunday. Working on holidays builds camaraderie with your co-workers and leaves a memory mark for when you’re on the other side of the counter.
Assuming workers on Thanksgiving get time and a half, maybe they volunteered to make some extra money. Maybe they were told to do it. Maybe they’d rather work Thanksgiving night and go home at dawn than get to work at 3 a.m. Friday on no sleep. If I worked retail, I’d much rather just go to work after turkey than stay up anticipating the imminent chaos. So if you do shop, how can you make their lives not as hard? Don’t be a jerk, first. Don’t whine, don’t shove, don’t make a mess. Don’t forget your manners. And unless you, too, are paid minimum wage, think for a minute about what kind of take-home pay they get after dealing with the likes of you all day. Be nice.
For those who won’t shop on Thanksgiving on principle, hooray for people thinking about the work lives of someone other than themselves. Unions aren’t what they used to be, and someone needs to be looking out for workers.
As for me, I’ll be sitting on the couch Thanksgiving night, and I’ll be here at my desk on Black Friday, writing next week’s column. If you’re going shopping after turkey and pumpkin pie at the table, save some of those warm feelings for when you get to the store. If you go out to eat, leave a good tip, too.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.