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Opinion Black Friday has encroached on Thankful Thursday

George HasaraIt ruffles my tail feathers that Thanksgiving is becoming a casualty of commercialism.

It's a great holiday. No gifts to worry about or songs to memorize. You’re not expected to send Thanksgiving flowers to anyone or to decorate anything. Food, football, friends, family - all the basics of life are included on the fourth Thursday of November. The bounty of the holiday is a reminder of things to be thankful for. However, Thanksgiving has now taken a support role as a staging point for the great retail holiday, otherwise known as Christmas.

The spending frenzy of Black Friday has infected the Thanksgiving holiday itself with major retailers opening doors Thursday to get the jump on the competition. A Forbes Magazine report states “A Black Friday spending analysis from the credit card giant (MasterCard) shows a whopping 70 percent of consumer spending happens at the first two stores they visit.” So, make sure you are one of those two stores. Locally, that’s going to be Walmart and somebody else. It’s the retail version of the “arms race,” with each competitive escalation needing to be matched to stay in the game.

Tony Rohr, a Pizza Hut store manager in Indiana was fired for refusing to open up Thanksgiving. I'm not quite sure how much pizza our bellies can stand on Turkey Day. It wasn't as if he was a bartender refusing to open on New Year's Eve. Rohr believed that his staff shouldn't have to work on a day so special to families. For his concern, he was rewarded with permanent family time. Fortunately, someone in corporate had a better business plan and stepped in by “recommending” to the franchise owner that Rohr be reinstated.

I’m all for commerce, but I'm a believer in moderation as well. The Forbes story also states that half of the total Christmas buying is done during those few days around Thanksgiving. To be sure, an ever-growing chunk of sales are being generated online including the holiday-esque sounding Cyber Monday. With mobile devices, there is no delaying the pleasures of spending. One can buy online as they wait in line.

The Thanksgiving Day store openings may be an indicator that the Christmas buying bubble is one step closer to popping. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Black Friday weekend sales at stores and websites are down from the previous year for the first time since 2009. Of 141 million shoppers, the average spending fell 3.9 percent to $407.02 per person. Yes, I'm wondering too, just how do they come up with those precise numbers? At any rate, that's $407.02 that I still have in my bank account, and perhaps it's only a matter of time before a tipping point of people realize that Christmas cheer doesn't need to be so pricey.

Frugality is coming into its own. There was a time when a person might be inclined to hide the fact that they wore thriftstore clothes. Now, it is a bragging point for only spending a fraction of normal retail. Getting by on a shoestring during the holiday season is commendable as well. Hopefully, Thanksgiving will continue to be appreciated for its own sake and not become part of a grand marketing scheme. We already have Valentine’s Day for that.


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