Happy Thanksgiving — at least for those of you who can still kick back and enjoy it.
In 2011, employees at Target stores opened their doors at the very moment Thanksgiving turned into The Day After Thanksgiving.
In 2012, Target employees opened their doors three hours earlier.
In 2013, Target employees will open their doors yet another hour earlier.
The popular discount chain is far from alone in accelerating the shopping season — and in digging into the leisure time of its workers. Kmart is blowing up the holiday entirely, opening today at 6 a.m. and staying open for 41 consecutive hours.
How relaxing for its employees.
Is this the same country that not long ago forbade businesses to open on Sundays?
As recently as 1965, people in Greater Akron were getting arrested for operating a retail store on a “day of rest.”
In August of that year, the Fairlawn Police Department swooped down on a popular discount store in the Fairlawn Shopping Center called Giant Tiger and arrested eight employees. The charge: “Engaging in common labor on Sunday.”
We’re talking 1965! Although busting people for Sunday sales seems unthinkable today, about 42 percent of Akron’s current residents were alive when those arrests were taking place.
The Fairlawn ordinance required all businesses to close on Sunday except for gas stations and other travel-related firms, restaurants, recreational facilities and “operations of public necessity.”
Many other Ohio communities had similar laws. Although enforcement was spotty, the courts generally upheld the legality of what were referred to as “blue laws.”
Fairlawn police Chief Arthur Swigert, prodded by the City Council and Mayor Joe Poticny, repeated the initial 1965 bust Sunday after Sunday. After three weeks, 26 people had been arrested. After two months, the total reached 56.
Swigert told the Beacon Journal: “This ordinance will be strictly enforced because the people do not want Sunday sales in this village.”
Imagine what he might have said about all-day sales on Thanksgiving.
In a mere two score and eight years, we have gone from not selling on Sundays to selling out our holidays.
Can’t we please find some middle ground?
Retail trade groups will tell you these ever-expanding hours are nothing more than a reaction to customer demand.
Did you ever hear anyone complain that he or she desperately wanted to start Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving but was forced to wait a day?
We need holidays. We need time to kick back and think about where we are, where we’re going and, today in particular, what we have.
Part of what knits a society together is the interaction between generations. But meaningful interaction keeps getting harder to arrange.
Instead of kids and parents sitting in front of a crackling fire after a family meal, listening to grandpa share stories about the old days — “Did you know it used to be illegal for stores to stay open on Sunday?” — the parents are out kneecapping each other to grab a robotic Furby or a hugging Elmo or a Barbie Dream House.
At the rate we’re going, anything other than 24/7/365 stores soon will seem quaint.
To be sure, my view is not unanimous. For some folks, a partial Thanksgiving is plenty.
Thursday shopping is “a good excuse to kick people out of the house,” says curmudgeon Phil Trexler, who operates a keyboard near mine. “Some of them stay forever — past the end of the 4 o’clock game!”
Other folks welcome the trend because they see it as a shining example of American capitalism in action.
Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman argued last year at this time that the explosion of shopping hours is a good thing because it shows “the consumer is king.”
“This has not always been true,” he wrote. “Producers once reigned supreme. When I took economics in college in the 1970s, my instructors continually highlighted the danger of large firms that could restrict production to keep prices unreasonably high. ...
“Consumers had only a few options. ... If they bought a radio or a pair of pants that proved unsatisfactory, they were often stuck.
“But no more. Consumers can choose from a dizzying array of options and prices.”
That is indeed a wonderful thing — for 359 days a year. Nobody needs to be dizzy every day of every year.
Today I’m giving thanks for area employers who still believe Thanksgiving’s value trumps the daily ledger.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.