Black... Thursday? Why the Sales Are Starting Earlier Than Ever

November 20,2012
Erin Dower( )

The lights, the lights, the lights that light the lights... Wait a minute while I get that Kmart jingle out of my head.

Is it me, or are the Black Friday and holiday shopping commercials earlier and more relentless than ever? Scratch "Black Friday." This year, it's officially becoming Black Thursday.

Sure, a couple of stores have been having Thanksgiving Day "Black Friday" sales for years. I remember when this was a new concept back about 10 years ago. I was a newspaper reporter working on Thanksgiving (booooo! but somebody's gotta do it), and I had to cover Kmart's opening on Thanksgiving night for some early-bird shoppers. It was such a crazy notion at the time.

Now, it's becoming the norm. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Wal-Mart, Macy's, Best Buy, Sears, Target, and several other retailers have jumped on the Black Thursday bandwagon.

What an ugly trend!! Not only are shoppers being lured into ditching their family on one of our nation's most meaningful holidays. Many of the store employees are being forced to take a shift during what should be quality family time.

Why, you ask? As the WSJ points out, Americans aren't much more likely to spend more money overall if the stores open a night earlier. BUT, they might be more likely to spend their money at the stores with the earlier sales, just to be sure they get that coveted item before it's sold out, or the price jumps up, etc. Essentially, it's a form of retail blackmail and survival-of-the-fittest competition between stores. Yuck!

One poor Target employee in California told CNN that she'll be working 9-to-5 on Thursday. (That's 9 p.m. on Thursday until 5 a.m. on Friday -- after working until 3 a.m. on Thursday morning to stock the shelves.) Hey, having a job these days is a good thing. But her Thanksgiving is pretty much shot. ""It shouldn't have to be a rushed affair, slipping in to eat some turkey and taking a piece of pie for the road,"  she said.

To quote Alfred the Macy's janitor in one of my favorite Christmas movies, Miracle on 34th Street (the original!): "Yeah, there's a lot of bad 'isms' floatin' around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it's the same -- don't care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck."

I'll be out stimulating the economy AFTER Black Thursday and Black Friday. How about you? Braving it at the early-bird sales -- or avoiding them at all costs?