Saturday, November 16, 2013

Black Turkey Day

Rogue Valley Roasting Company
12oz Soy Butterscotch Mocha
Breakfast Burrito w/salsa

Last year I began shunning Target.  This is because I suck at boycotting them.  You may be able to point to some good things they do, and they may have had the cheapest diaper wipes, but they crossed a line last year - they crossed the turkey line.

Like WalMart and Toys-R-Us and a few others, Target began their Black Friday on Thanksgiving.  Of all transgressions a company can commit, one that offends me most is exploiting their employees.  Retail employees already do not receive adequate compensation, nor receive adequate time with their families (generally speaking).  So to force already desperate or strained people to work on one of their very few holidays in order to earn a precious little extra is in no way benevolent.  And even if it is officially deemed "optional," most employees will believe - and often, rightly so - that it will count against them if they choose to not work on their holiday.  Even if management doesn't officially count it against them, come review time, the employee's lack of team spirit will be there in the back of their mind, if not the fore.

My husband and I don't have many big arguments but they mainly involve time off, and the lack thereof.  Low wage workers already have so much less opportunity to enjoy and care for their families than their better paid peers.  When I was younger and more itinerant, my schedule around the holidays mattered less to me.  I was often either so far away from family that I couldn't conceive of a holiday trip to visit them, or I was close enough for a quick dinner or overnight stay between my regular shifts.  Now that I have small children, traveling anywhere is an ordeal and cannot be undertaken without a clear swath of time. 

For low wage workers, this is hard to come by ever - especially in the retail environment which is constantly understaffed and cycling through employees who have burnt out or moved on to a more sustainable wage.  But during the holiday season - as early as October through the beginning of January - most retail establishments implement a black out policy.  No time off for anyone because then everybody would take time off during their busiest time of the year.

So if you want to spend time with your loved ones around the holidays, those two traditional days off - Thanksgiving and Christmas Day - are precious.  In a best case scenario, you might have sympathetic management with enough staffing options that you can rearrange your usual days off to get a longer block of time to travel around those, oh, so congested traveling days.  Sometimes, if you have seniority and enough notice, you might even get approved in advance to take an extra day off.  This is the exception, though, for most places.  And now it seems that the special extra time off would be just not working the day that we are all supposed to take to spend with the people most precious to us.

(Here's a tip executives: If you consider your customers to be the people most precious to you, then you give up your holidays with your family and get behind those registers, and let your over-worked staff stay home.  Better yet - everybody stay home!)

So, beginning last holiday season, I began ordering our diapers and wipes elsewhere (and here's a shout-out to, who have always impressed me with their treatment of their customers, their employees, and their special efforts following Hurricane Sandy last year - props!).  I began trying to find other sources for all the miscellaneous things I would pick up when I was at Target.  I have still spent money there over this last year, and almost none at WalMart and Toys-R-Us, but they have lost at least a couple thousand of my dollars in poopy butt supplies.  Not a lot to a big, giant company like them, but I feel better about myself.  And I will continue to seek out businesses that do right by their people.

And to those executives who would say, "We're only open that day because people want to shop that day," I say, that is no excuse.  Not only does it abuse the free time of the employees and the families who love them for the sake of extracting a few more dollars from your customers, but it also abuses the customers.  Some customers don't care, they just want the best deal.  But probably most of them would rather not be there, even if it's just for a 4 a.m. opening on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  But people are made to feel desperate, that this is their only opportunity to get something big, that they might otherwise never be able to get.  Or at least, desperate to keep their credit card payments a little bit smaller.  So they sacrifice their sleep, their time waiting in line, and most disgustingly they sacrifice a little of their humanity.  They sacrifice what should be some of the most meaningful time of their lives to become sleep-deprived, feral, door-busting, customer-trampling bargain shoppers!

Door-busting is an inhumane practice and should end this very holiday season.  Companies should stop trying to drive people to shop at their stores by creating a panicked sense of urgency and potential loss.  There are other ways to remain a viable business than by forcing people on both sides of the counter to make difficult, even soul-crushing (or people-crushing), sacrifices in the name of consumption.  Maybe start by building your brand as a company that values people more than corporate bonuses.  A company that doesn't just want to financially exist, but wants to deserve to exist.

I would pay extra to shop at a place like that.

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