Thanksgiving Night Store Openings Prompt Employee Complaints

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This year, Walmart is opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving for Black Friday, the earliest the retailer has ever opened. Steven Restivo, a Walmart spokesperson, claimed in an email to The Huffington Post that the “super majority” of the company’s associates are “excited about Black Friday and are ready to serve our customers.” But some employees are not happy about having to work on Thanksgiving. One in particular, a 24-year Walmart associate, started a petition on MoveOn.org. The petition, which has over 30,000 signatures, states that Walmart “can afford to give its employees this holiday to spend with their families.”

Walmart stores will not be the only ones open on Thanksgiving evening. Other giant retailers are also opening on Thanksgiving. Toys R Us, Kmart, and Sears are also opening at 8 p.m. Kmart has been open on Thanksgiving for 21 years. Target will open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Given the tough economy, it makes sense economically for retailers to start Black Friday so early, as Brian Sozzi, chief equities analyst at NBG Productions told Reuters. “You’re getting people into the store to buy your products earlier. If I look at what Walmart’s doing here, they have led,” Sozzi said.

Walmart is also not the only retailer who is the target of a petition. There are currently about 91 petitions on Change.org asking retailers to not make employees work on Thanksgiving. One Change.org petition directed to Target CEO Gregg W. Steinhafe states, “Don’t let Target take away Thanksgiving!” The petition asks people to join in “asking Target to do the right thing for families like mine and stay closed on Thanksgiving.”

Retailers provide perks for customers who shop early

There are perks for customers who shop early for Black Friday deals. Walmart, in particular, will have an array of deals. As Walmart’s Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer, Duncan Mac Naughton said, “We bought deep, very deep, and we bought deep on items that matter to our customers.”

There will be “hundreds of brand name electronics, toys, apparel, sporting goods and items for the home…available during three events starting at 8 p.m. on November 22,” Walmart said in a press release about Black Friday. Mac Naughton said, “This year, for the first time ever, customers that shop during Walmart’s one-hour event will be guaranteed to have three of the most popular items under their tree at a great low price.”

There is even a perk, so to speak, for the environment, as Walmart tweeted to TriplePundit editor, Jen Boynton: “Every computer we sell on #blackfriday has gone through the @TSC_News index & will save customers approx $15m in energy #WMTcsr.” In other words, all computers sold on Black Friday in Walmart stores have gone through The Sustainability Consortium’s index and will save energy.

The backlash is not good for PR

Judging from the petitions online, not everyone is happy with Black Friday starting on Thanksgiving evening. That is not the best public relations, as David Johnson, CEO of public relations agency Strategic Vision, told USA Today. “It creates the public persona of these big corporations who just care about profit,” he said. “Thanksgiving used to be sacrosanct.”

How early is too early? Is it fair to expect any employee to work on Thanksgiving? What do you think?

Image credit: Flickr user, tshein

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.