O come, all ye shoppers

By carrie thayer

thayerca@mnstate.edu

It’s 6:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and my mom is busting out the lefse. She is spreading too much butter on the warm flat bread. Not to worry, the cinnamon and sugar shakers are close by. Dad is already asleep on the couch upstairs. My 2-year-old nephew is figuring out the roadways allowed by the living room furniture on his new Big Wheel. My brother is shuffling a deck of cards for the traditional rounds of a game charmingly referred to as “Shit on the Dealer.”

Not to brag, but I’m pretty infamous for my ability to cheat at any and all card games. The only problem is that this year no one is going to have to closely watch my gameplay, because I am over 200 miles away, driving to work a seven-hour shift at the Starbucks in Target.

Clearly my situation isn’t as harrowing as someone working in the toys or electronics department. No one is trampling over someone for a Peppermint Mocha Latte—yet, anyway.

Still, I can’t help but think of my Thanksgiving dinner of reheated pizza and fresh pomegranate. I can’t help but think of the mountains of mashed potatoes, stuffing and homemade buns. I can’t help but think of what I’m missing out on.

For those of you somehow shielded away from the mass hysteria that is consumerism, the day after Thanksgiving is seen as the annual kickoff for Christmas shopping.

This has been the case since the induction of the Macy’s Parade in 1924. The Santa Claus featured at the end isn’t just supposed to be a jolly conclusion to the cartoon character-shaped balloons and marching bands. He signifies that Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season has officially begun.

The surge in sales brought on by that transition prompted merchants to appeal to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, when Thanksgiving fell on the 30th. With the holiday happening so late in the month, almost a week of prime shopping time would be lost.

To appease the retailers, Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week. However, the announcement was made in late October, after most had already made their plans. So, the new date wasn’t really observed, instead it was referred to as “Franksgiving.”

It was after this debacle that Congress passed a law promising the holiday would fall on the fourth Thursday in November, regardless of how shopping might be impacted.

The term Black Friday wasn’t applied until the 1960s, when the police in Philadelphia were overwhelmed with the amount of traffic and incidents during the day.

The positive spin, that black signifies the retailers moving financially from being at a loss or “in the red,” to being “in the black” or showing gain, wasn’t used until the 1980s.

This brings us to the present day, where retailers are competing not only between themselves, but with online shopping and a fluctuating economy.

So, Black Friday keeps pushing its way to start earlier and earlier until we have this new phenomenon, Gray Thursday, or you know, what used to be Thanksgiving.

So, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and he’s looking to get you a half-priced television.

I spoke to shopper Rachel Pederson while she ventured into the chaos that is a Target store on Thanksgiving. She was wearing her holiday best, hair still curled from the dinner she just left.

Pederson had to work the previous Thanksgiving and her family was disappointed in her second early exit in as many years. However, the call to save money was too great.

“I had to leave early from my family’s dinner because I wanted something, and I had the opportunity to get a deal,” Pederson said.

The line of customers waiting to get into Target had wrapped around the building and spilled onto the neighboring train tracks.

While waiting, Pederson watched a woman argue with police about line jumpers, but mostly the wait was cold and boring.

Still, Pederson braved her way through the masses and scored her coveted item: a $75 Starbucks mug, which offers the purchaser a free drink every day in January. What did she save for her feat? Ten whole dollars.

Ultimately, we pick and choose our battles, Pederson said about the trend of stores opening on Thanksgiving, “I don’t appreciate it, but we’re open for other holidays … Every holiday is about family time.”

Here I could make a longwinded declaration of familiarity with my coworkers, but this isn’t a Lifetime movie.

Instead I settle into my role as the mindless automaton, turning out Pumpkin Spice Latte after Caramel Hot Chocolate at a speed that would impress Henry Ford. 

I suppress the urge to roll my eyes at every customer that comments on how much it sucks that I have to work on a holiday.

So I try my best not to think of that darn lefse and accept the time-and-a-half holiday pay. Right now, I happen to work in retail and this is what that industry has decided works for them at the moment. Is Thanksgiving disappearing? Maybe.

I can’t deny that that’s a sad idea for the non-turkeys of our country, but, hey, I got this really great deal on a blu-ray player during my break.

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