Stuff This, Corporate Retail America

Paper bag from a thrift store.

Paper bag from a thrift store.

I like things, it’s no secret.  I even like stuff.  But what. the. fuck. America?  The insanity known as Black Friday wasn’t enough.  Ok, I’m not a Black Friday shopper, but lots of people are, I’ve known several who find it fun, and a few who see it as a type of sport.  Now more and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving.  Shop, shop, shop for more shit you don’t need and no one wants while you’re in your growth-hormone-laced-turkey stupor, so there won’t be any pesky common sense to get in the way.  A couple of days ago I saw a clip on the news about a mall in Western New York that will be opening at 6PM on Thanksgiving Day (and I’m willing to bet if there’s one mall doing this there are more doing the same)–and any retail stores that choose not to open will be fined somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 an hour for every hour the mall is open that the store isn’t.  Apparently these fines are somewhat common, written into lease agreements at many malls across the country.  Opening on Thanksgiving Day, though, that’s new(er).

What is wrong with us?  These big box retailers are the pimps driving BMWs with flashy rims, and we the consumers are the black-eyed,  split-lipped prostitutes shivering in the cold and dirty slush waiting for the bus at 5AM.   I don’t know that I think Thanksgiving with its false myths of blissful Pilgrims and Native Americans singing Kumbaya together over pumpkin pie is so sacred.  But it is supposed to symbolize something, a day to reflect on who and what we have, enjoy our friends, families and communities, what our society is and what it stands for.  If you’re a cynic like myself, your immediate thought is of the big money involved in those Thanksgiving Day football games and the gluttony encouraged on TV screens across the nation.

This is New York, city of convenience.  Public transportation, grocery stores, drug stores and restaurants being open 24/7, 365 days a year is nothing new.  I used to work in social services so yes, I have worked every holiday.  I’ll even admit I didn’t hate it.  In fact, it was lovely, and those holidays affirmed the work I did mattered, because these were human beings I worked with, not diagnoses, and workers and clients had a good time cooking and eating together.  Sure there was always someone who would decompensate and need to go to the ER right before I was about to go off shift–but that’s why I was there, why the work was meaningful if not lucrative–and good God, draining doesn’t begin to cover it.

That said is why I’m very aware not everyone can or should have the holiday off.  Social services, medical services, residential treatment services, police, firefighters, public transportation, emergency crews available for public works, these can’t all lock the doors and turn the cell phones off.  Sometimes the service provided is more necessary than dinner with Cindy Lou Who.  But buying the latest video game console?  The perfect sweater for an ugly sweater contest?  Really, that can’t wait until the morning?  People who work retail are among those who can least afford to take a stand and say “I’m not coming in to work on the holiday,” yet they already see their loved ones least, since they work evenings, nights, and weekends.

I posted last week about my city adventures in the Met and St John the Divine.  I’ve been thinking about it ever since, these great enduring works of art–hundreds, some thousands of years old, still revered, still relevant, artists and works still remembered.   This being the case, why are artists (visual, actors, musicians or writers) still treated with contempt, as if what they offer society has no value, unless, of course, they’re hugely financially successful?  Or dead.  Maybe I’m just a flaky mush but I went back to St John yesterday, to bring my godson and Art Child and spend time again with “AMEN: A Prayer for the World.” And I was moved, on the verge of tears again from the works of these modern artists from disparate cultures, an exhibition about respect and understanding, our shared humanity.

IMG_2378

Husband works retail.  His store is closed on Thanksgiving, but if they decided to open, he would grumble, I would bitch, and then he would go to work.  Because rent. Maybe the saleswoman helping you find the laptop you want this Thanksgiving is a mom who is paying a babysitter more than she’s making for the day because the regular sitter is with her own family, or the daycare is closed. Maybe the cashier is an artist who thought he was going to be able to spend the day sculpting. Maybe the floor manager is just fucking tired and had hoped for a day off before the insanity of Black Friday began–because yes, she does have to be back at the store at 4am the next day.  The executives who decided the stores should be open?  They’re home.  Or on vacation.  Maybe they’ll stop in and benignly thank the peasant workers for their service. They’re most certainly not trying to figure out how to cook, clean up, offer a holiday experience for their children, beg for child care, calculate how they will pay rent/mortgage/utilities and then go stand on their feet and smile politely for 14 straight hours.

I received this solicitation in the mail the other day.  I don’t have much, but I think I’ll write a check.

and mail it on Thanksgiving.

and drop it in the mailbox on Thanksgiving.

We each have a voice in this country, as individuals and as a greater community.  Our voices are heard when we vote, and at this point in our consumer-based society, I believe our voices ring out most clearly through our wallets.  People can tsk tsk all they want.  The only message being conveyed if you shop on a holiday is that it’s a good, profitable idea for the stores to open, and the people working don’t matter.  I’m asking the Fringelings here in America (who don’t have to work on the holiday) to speak out by staying out of the stores on Thanksgiving.  Read a classic novel, listen to music, plan a trip to a museum, watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Use the day to make a statement about what you believe matters.  Unless you have to work.

 

 

22 comments

  1. The library is always closed on Thanksgiving, and this year, the Board in their generosity has also opted to give us Black Friday off (and Christmas Eve. Prior boss didn’t think this might be good? I don’t know why). But I absolutely do not shop at these times. I do my shopping ahead of time and hunker down and stay home as long as I can. Bonus points if i don’t have to get dressed. This consumerist bullshit is getting out of hand, especially with stores inundating my mailboxes physical and electronic with PRE Black Friday sales. Seriously?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, nice! Glad you’ll be able to have some extra time during this holiday season. 🙂

      At this point, it’s out and out greed on the part of the parent corporations, not even a pretense of caring about the welfare of employees. We can choose to live differently without donning sackcloth and ashes.

      Yes, these sales have become so frequent I think someone has to be trying to pay full retail, and I always say I’m going to shop in advance, but I’m usually a week-before kind of gal.

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  2. I try to shop at stores that close for Thanksgiving. Don’t see the need. It doesn’t increase sales and people should have the chance to spend the holiday with their families. But, hey, that’s capitalism.

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  3. I used to wash dishes at a hotel restaurant. Had to work Easter and Thanksgiving. For crap pay, but I needed the money and if I didn’t, I’d be fired. So I’d go in early, pull on my stupid white uniform, head upstairs. Into the kitchen, to the back where the industrial strength dishwasher was and stand there looking at that counter, already stacked with tubs of egg-caked dishes.

    Cry, like I said.

    Then I’d get to work.

    I feel bad for anybody whose work is not critical, working on holidays. Like you said, most are in retail in some capacity, or restaurants. My mom was a waitress, she worked Mother’s Day, I used to feel so bad for her. And like you said, the greedy people who are running these shows care not, and not only that, they are pushing the limits back, back, back, to eke out every last drop of their target saps’ money.

    We could go on and on, mrs fringe. And rail. And allow ourselves to get sucked into that crazy vortex or we could stay home and hug our loved ones, read a book, drink tea. I shall endeavor to follow your lead. By the way, my sister has to work this Thanksgiving, an NFL football game. So we are celebrating that Saturday. I’ll record the parades.

    Fuck ’em.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many of us have worked jobs where we needed to work holidays, or had/have family members who did, and complained about it. So why are we so quick to ignore other families by lining up for those bogus early early bird so early it’s Thursday Black Friday specials? 😦

      I love that your family is able to work around your sister’s needing to work on the holiday–understand it, and figure out how to make the holiday happen regardless. Fuck ’em indeed.
      But those who work retail are guaranteed to be working Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday. Take away Thursday and…

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  4. Oh yeah, I wrote “fuck ’em,” and hit ‘send,’ then I go back and read what I wrote and. . .

    “Cry, like I said”? No, I didn’t. Poo. Plus, I sound angry at the end there. But I wasn’t feeling angry as much as. . . melancholic, maybe. Remembering how it was for me, my mom, thinking of all the people who have to work on days they shouldn’t, thinking how the meaning of holidays like Thanksgiving are bastardized by blatant commercialism.

    But the truth is, we can ignore of that. We can shut off our tvs and stay out of the stores. Keep our minds and hearts on other, better things. We can only get sucked in if we allow ourselves to be sucked in.

    I appreciate this post, mrs fringe, because it’s a reminder that our hands aren’t tied. If we don’t like how things are, we can do something about that. One person at a time, like you said.

    xoxo kk

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah! I like to think of it as emphatic, passionate, not angry. And you may not have noticed this, but I’m not opposed to the occasional well-placed “fuck em.” 😉

      Yes! We can ignore the barrage of advertising and false sales, and choose how and when we spend our money with care.

      xoxo

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  5. Bravo! Your post echoes so many of my own thoughts. As an immigrant who came (not on a boat but with one suitcase) I have immediately embraced Thanksgiving, inviting anyone I could meet and had no plans around our small table. A turkey for two was huge!
    Years later with four kids we don’t always invite more people as the kids often come accompanied. Yet I remember of my very first Thanksgiving dinners when I searched for ingredients that sounded so exotic to my French taste and customs.
    But I’ve never liked and still I don’t like Black Friday. I’ve heard and even met people who get in line hours, even days, before the opening of the stores on Black Friday. I haven’t done it and although I’ve tried lots of American things in order to understand my new home, I don’t think I will ever be a Black Friday fan. Two years ago when my first book was released I was part of a small group of authors invited by our local bookstore to encourage local and independently owned business. That’s more in line with my Thanksgiving.
    You’re right to remind us about the meaning of this celebration. Like you I don’t totally buy the Pilgrims thing, but I do get the need for a nation to pause, at least one day a year. Sharing food and conversation, a walk in the city, on the beach or a hike in the mountains to remember that the best in life is never stuff bought on sale. That’s what makes us so unique in comparison to the rest of the world and we should keep this in mind as more shocking videos of riots are posted all over the Internet on Black Friday. Is it what we want people think of the US and of American people? We are so much better than Buy One Get One Free.
    I love this post, Mrs. Fringe. As I am working on my own Thanksgiving post, do you allow me to link to yours?

    Like

    1. Thank you Evelyn. I loved Thanksgiving for a long time. Recently, not as much, but I still appreciate, and want to appreciate, the sentiment. It’s funny, Black Friday has actually been around a long time, but I never heard of it until well into my adulthood. My family wasn’t big on shopping (except food, but that’s another story), and I wasn’t either.

      The videos of the madness surrounding Black Friday shopping are indeed shocking, I agree.

      I look forward to your Thanksgiving post, and yes, you are always welcome to put a link to Mrs Fringe–thank you! 🙂

      Like

  6. Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. Nothing but family, food, and thanksgiving for both. I hate, hate, hate what Black Friday, and now Black November, has done to it.

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  7. Désolée, pas un anglais formidable, mais je pense avoir compris l’esprit de cet article que j’aime beaucoup. Ici, en France, les gens plébiscitent l’ouverture des magasins à peu près tous les jours, y compris les gens qui y travaillent…Mais eux, c’est parce que leurs emplois sont si précaires et si mal payés, qu’ils espèrent ainsi améliorer leur vie. Au détriment de leur vie de famille, et de leur santé…En tous cas, je partage complètement votre point de vue et remercie Evelyne pour ce lien.

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    1. Thank you for visiting and for your thoughts–and welcome to Mrs Fringe 🙂

      Translated by Babylon: Sorry, not a great english, but I think I have understood the spirit of this article that I liked very much. Here, in France, the people embrace the opening of stores in almost all days, including the people who work there … But them, it is because their jobs are so precarious and so poorly paid, that they hope to improve their lives. To the detriment of their family life, and their health etc. In all cases, I fully share your point of view and thank Evelyne for this link.

      Like

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