Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 11, 2013

The Black Friday ‘creep’

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — Now that Halloween is behind us, we can all get ready for the next major holiday — Christmas.

What's that? I'm forgetting something? Are you sure?

Oh, that's right. Thanksgiving is this month. I didn't see the turkeys in the store because I was distracted by the Christmas trees, lawn decorations and curiously large bows and I must have just forgotten about that day where we sit down and enjoy breaking bread with our family and friends.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, but more and more, it seems like we're just going through the motions. Families barely have time to say grace, go around the room stating one thing every person is thankful for and dig in to the turkey and dressing before it's time to pack up and hit the stores.

Before, Christmas shopping season kicked off on Black Friday, at a somewhat reasonable hour of 5 a.m. I can recall being at the store in the pre-dawn hour hoping I'd score a TV. I did. That TV stayed with me for many years before I traded it in for a bigger model. It was a good buy and I more than got my money's worth.

I went one other time through the years, and I can't begin to recall what it was I was so sure I needed that I got up at some unmentionable hour to traipse around the Upper Cumberland in the cold, fighting crowds and wishing I was at home asleep or just spending some good downtime with my family.

I think the sales that year started at around 3 a.m. That was the beginning of the "creep." A few years ago, the "creep" made it all the way into Thanksgiving morning.

This year, you'll find many major retailers open all day long on Thanksgiving Day. They aren't closing down to prepare for the Black Friday madness. They'll have the specials and the doorbusters that are so attractive you'll pass on the cranberry sauce to try your luck at getting the latest gotta-have gadget.

And the last vestige of that day we sat aside to say thank you to our creator for all the things in our life that are wonderful and good.

Who is to blame for stealing our day of being thankful from us? Yes, I could point a finger at big corporate retail chains. But bless their hearts, they are what they are. If they were to open the doors wide one Thanksgiving and be met with no one, you can bet they wouldn't do it again the next year. They don't like paying employees to be at work if the cash registers aren't singing.

Nope, the blame lies squarely on our shoulders — all of us consumers. If we didn't go, they wouldn't be there.

Granted, I don't go shopping on Thanksgiving day, or Black Friday, if I can help it at all. I abhor the crowds and the pushing and there are very few things money can buy that I'm willing to get up and at 'em for at 3 a.m.

I'm reminded of working in a restaurant in college. The establishment, long since closed, was right down the street from one of the largest churches in town, and my place of employment was one of the first places they hit when the preacher turned them loose, ready to enjoy a Sunday meal and leave the dishes to us.

On more than one occasion, it was made clear that some of these church-faring folk didn't appreciate the fact that the employees had obviously been at work since before the services had begun. That meant they hadn't attended church. And that was bad.

"It's a shame they have these restaurants open on Sunday," I heard multiple times.

Let me get this off my chest, finally, after all these years. Folks, if it had not been profitable for that restaurant to be open on Sundays, it would not have been. If no one was there waiting for the doors to open at 7 a.m. for breakfast, or lined up out the door for lunch, then they wouldn't be open on Sunday. But it was. Because you were there.

Sure, it wasn't likely that you going home to a home cooked meal would have meant the place would have closed that one day a week. But if a lot of people had done so, it would have happened. Eventually.

The same goes for stores opening on holidays that many feel should be reserved for family time. If no one shows up, the trend might just get reversed. But judging by the packed parking lots I witnessed last year, I wouldn't be holding my breath.

But when we're standing in line on Thanksgiving day, loading up a bunch of toys and clothes, don't talk about how wrong it is that the employees are working on a day that should be set aside for family. They're only there because you are.

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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.