December 9th, 2013

planet

why I think retailers should close on Thanksgiving, really

I had a summer job for a while at the mall. It was awesome, I worked at the Discovery Channel Store. We sold crocodile hunter videos, picture frames with flowers pressed in the glass border, rain sticks, educational toys, galileo thermometers, stuffed animals of all species. Fun stuff that made people happy.

The biggest ticket item we sold were telescopes. There was a training program you had to go through to tell people about telescopes, and if you sold one during the week the manager talked about it to everybody and it was a happy time. We had telescopes ranging from a couple hundred bucks to $3k, and you would carefully go through them with potential customers to explain the terms and what you'd be able to see with each one.

That was my summer.

The manager said she could use help over Christmas break too, so in my month or whatever off school I came back and it was absolutely NUTS. I had no idea. I was unprepared.

The store was packed from 10 until close, we opened at 8 or 9 and the savvy shoppers knew about it, by the time our normal advertised hours came around you could barely move. And we sold so. much. stuff.

And the expensive telescopes? no longer a big deal that the manager would talk about during the week, because we sold three a day, usually to people who weren't asking any questions and didn't care to have any help, they just knew what they were going to spend and they spent it.

I would get home and feel dirty, like I'd been drenched in the public all day, and I started hating Christmas, even though I appreciated that it probably funded my store all year. But that made it almost worse. I realized how enormous the holiday shopping season was, and it made my religious holiday feel invisible.

Christmas, to me, was about the mystery of a God who wanted so badly to connect with his people that he came down to live an entire life as one of us.

Working retail made me feel like I was holding a candle next to a lighthouse. Who the hell cared about my mystery... there are billions to be made. Lives built around these dollars. Factory workers in distant places who leave their families, just for this.

Last week I said I didn't think stores should start their Christmas sales on Thanksgiving day, and when I talked about that people brought up the fact that there are lots of people who want to work Thanksgiving, or have always worked thanksgiving, why are we pressuring retailers to change? Hell, even we ran out to the grocery store to buy a spice we needed for the cranberries, was I going to tell those workers to go home?

Well I'm saying retail is different. They've already taken Christmas. Took a religious holiday about connections, and made it about credit card statements... and now they want one more day. Not just any day, but another day that's supposed to be about connections.

And I will be the first to say that Christians did this to ourselves. We wanted to shove our religion into everyone's faces, wanted it to be in the mall. We have no right to complain about the mall somehow not getting it right. What did we think would happen? We're so eager to have this "Christian nation" we forgot how to ask ourselves what's sacred.

My stance about not shopping on Thanksgiving is about trying to keep back a tiny piece of what we lost, that's all. I realize that we live in society where we depend on each other, and if you are needed to provide food, safety, medical assistance, or staff a suicide hotline, then you probably can't have Thanksgiving off.

But I think we can figure out how to close Old Navy. That's all.