Worldwide Discussion:

Are you one of those who may have ruined Thanksgiving for thousands of people across America?

Did you actually go out and shop on Thanksgiving? Did you actually swap the opportunity for a family gathering, or a longer family gathering, in order to gobble up whatever “bargains” you could find at your friendly (but not family friendly) Big Box Store?

I mean, really. Did you?

Because if you did, you are among the reasons why more and more major American retailers than ever before required their employees to work last Thursday, having decided to open their doors on the day before “Black Friday” and its usual calamity of gluttony.

In case you don’t remember (or never knew), “Black Friday” got its name contemporarily from being the day that many businesses moved their accounts for the year from the red into the black. Merchants put everything but the kitchen sink on sale at very low prices to clear their shelves of stock and clear their books of loss.

A fairly recent “tradition,” it took on its name in a more widespread way somewhere in the mid-1970s, when stores not only put stuff on sale, but began opening their doors earlier and earlier on this day. Most recently, this trend has seen stores opening at 5 a.m., and then 4 a.m. — and now, in the most egregious grab for profits ever seen even in a country wallowing in consumerism, the evening of Thanksgiving…

…and in some cases, at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.

Some of the major retailers that decided to open their doors — and invite employees to leave families and friends in order to work — on Thanksgiving this year were: Walmart, Target, K-Mart, Toys ‘R Us, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Office Max, Sears, JCPenny, Gap, Old Navy, Best Buy, Banana Republic, Staples, and Michael’s.

I hope that none of you — not a single one of you — helped those stores to justify doing the same thing again next year by shopping there this year on this holiday. Did you know that the United States is the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t guarantee that all workers get paid vacation time?

How much farther are we as humans willing to go in quest of Bigger-Better-More? Is nothing to be sacred? Not even traditional family times — which are becoming fewer and farther between as it is?

I hope none of you shopped anywhere on so-called Black Friday, either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have taught huge money-grubbing corporations a lesson about what humanity values most?

Some of the companies listed above tried to get out of the obvious horrible “p.r.” rub-off of inviting workers to be at their stations on Thanksgiving by saying that their employees were excited and happy about the extra hours for extra pay. But when you’re making Walmart level salaries, that’s understandable. Throwing someone a log in the middle of a raging river is better than throwing them a rock. But why put them in the middle of the raging river in the first place? Oh yes, of course. Profits.

I love the note that the general manager of a Pizza Hut in Elkhart, Indiana wrote to his superiors when he refused to keep his local store open (and his employees working) on Thanksgiving. He claims to have been ordered by his boss to write a letter of resignation, but instead wrote a letter telling the “higher ups” why Pizza Hut should remain closed on the holiday.

The man, Tony Rohr, had worked at Pizza Hut for 10 years, working his way up to his management position. He said that Thanksgiving and Christmas were the only two days of the year that Pizza Hut was traditionally closed, and that he was not going to take one of those two guaranteed holidays away from his employees.

When he didn’t write a letter of resignation, he said that he was fired outright. The Indiana management says that he resigned. However the incident is framed, it backfired hugely on Pizza Hut when Mr. Rohr’s letter went viral on the Internet.

The national Pizza Hut office quickly back-peddled from the position taken by its Indiana franchisee, saying it had made a serious error in judgment, and strongly recommending that it keep the store closed on Thanksgiving (as with most Pizza Huts nationwide), and further, offer Mr. Rohr his job back. The Elkhart store quickly did both.

What I love in Mr. Rohr’s letter was his closing comment. Said he: “I accept that the refusal to comply with this greedy, immoral request means the end of my tenure with this company. I hope you realize it’s the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible.”

The people at the top of the corporate ladder probably did not go into work on Thanksgiving, nor probably even on the day after, preferring to take a long holiday weekend. But then, when you’re making two million dollars or more a year to make the decision to keep your stores open on the holiday, I guess you can afford to do that…


(Mr. Rohr had not decided at this writing whether to accept the invitation to have his job back. Pizza Hut is owned by Yum! Brands, one of the world’s largest fast food restaurant companies, with 40,000 stores worldwide. It also owns KFC and Taco Bell, as well as WingStreet restaurants.)

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