Black Thursday


Thanksgiving Day has evolved over the decades to mean different things to different people. Many will eat and drink too much, or spend hours watching football on TV. A projected 42 million Americans will pile into the family car and drive hours to visit relatives.

For millions more, Thanksgiving Day is Black Friday Eve — the start of the holiday shopping season. As many as 147 million Americans are expected to make their way to malls, shops, and big-box retail outlets today through Sunday.

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Some people — waiters, waitresses, chefs, retail clerks, gas station attendants, toll booth collectors, police officers, firefighters, newspaper employees, and others — always have had to work on the holiday. That trend is expanding.

Many retailers, eager for their share of the holiday-spending pie, will open Thursday before most Thanksgiving tables have been cleared. Last year, most waited until 9 p.m. to unleash their barrage of door-buster sales designed to entice shoppers.

This year, though, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, and Sears say they will open at 8 p.m. Kmart, which hasn’t closed on Thanksgiving for more than two decades, will offer discounted big-screen TVs beginning at 6 a.m.

Last year’s early opening sparked protests by some consumers, as well as employees who wanted to spend time with their families before the holiday retail rush began. This year, Target workers have circulated a petition that aimed to “save Thanksgiving.”

At Wal-Mart, many of whose stores are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, some employees plan a series of strikes to protest what they call low wages, meager benefits, and retaliation against workers who speak out. They plan to strike at as many as 1,000 stores on Black Friday.

Other retailers, including more than 75 shops, stores, and eateries at Toledo’s Westfield Franklin Park mall, will open at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Most will offer specially discounted items to tempt shoppers.

Owners and some retail experts insist the stores are merely responding to customer demand. They also believe that extending the shopping season will boost what are expected to be weaker-than-hoped holiday sales.

Not everyone agrees. Some analysts say that opening stores earlier will change when some people shop, but not how much they spend between now and the end of the year.

Thanksgiving is especially appealing because the holiday can be shared by all Americans of every faith, or no faith. And it is good once in a while to pause as a nation and remember that no matter how much or little we have in a material sense, we all have things we can — and should — be thankful for.

When Black Friday becomes Black Thursday, we choose frenzied shopping ahead of other values. Is that really the best choice?