Take A Holiday From Consumerism?

Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, is against shopping on Thanksgiving Day:

As a society, we’ve agreed that most of America’s workforce should have key holidays — in this case just one day — to be with family and friends, or just to take a breather from work. Holidays are also up there with vacation days as critical to keeping employees healthy and productive, more so than ever. Our research at the Families and Work Institute shows that the nation’s workforce is more stressed than ever, increasing significantly in recent years. Nearly one-third (32%) of employees report that their work has a primarily negative impact on their lives off the job by draining energy, so they don’t have enough left over for their personal and family life. Our research also shows that those who take vacations and holidays return to work more energized and productive. That’s why so many leading employers are encouraging time off for holidays and vacations.

In a statement, Macy’s said the decision to open on Thanksgiving was “in response to interest from customers who prefer to start their shopping early.” And it’s also true that it’s what some employees want as well, especially when retailers offer to pay time and a half, or when labor agreements include provisions for premium pay. But what I want to do is encourage people to look at the bigger work-life picture. Giving up our holidays can negatively impact our well-being and our personal and family lives. Creating traditions with our children and continuing traditions with our elders can also suffer. More important, it further erodes the already faint distinction between our work and our personal lives, and it’s a trend that just may move from retail to white collar jobs. After all, 50 years ago no one would have thought that professionals would be working nights and weekends, and we all know how that turned out.

Yglesias differs:

[I]n a diverse nation with more than 300 million citizens, opinions are going to vary on the pros and cons of extended business hours. How strapped for cash are you? Where does your family live? What’s your relationship with them like? How sentimental are you about specific holiday rituals? People will differ. This Thanksgiving there are going to be people with jobs at the Gap who wish they weren’t working Thanksgiving but feel that they’d lose their jobs if they weren’t willing to take an extra shift. There are also going to be people with jobs at Radio Shack who wish they could earn some extra cash and get out from under that credit card debt. I’m not persuaded that there’s a first-order question of social justice here one way or the other.

Nick Gillespie is pro-shopping:

Those of us who are old enough to recall little-remembered and even less-loved “blue laws” can only cheer the growth in 24/7 shopping. Dating back to the colonial times and religious in origin, blue laws severely limited whether stores could open at all on certain days of the year and what sorts of goods they could offer. Growing up in 1970s New Jersey, for instance, supermarkets could sell milk, bread, cold cuts, and other “necessities” on Sundays but whole aisles were literally roped off because the Sabbath was no day for frivolous purchases (especially of the alcoholic variety). Picking up furniture or clothes would have to wait til Monday.