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Anti-consumerism backlash loud, but inaudible over Black Thursday buzz

TargetTechnology IndustryThanksgivingConsumersBlack Friday (shopping)Cyber Monday

The fella who launched the petition to "save Thanksgiving" by trying to stop Target's midnight opening on Black Friday probably felt pretty good about his feel-good measure, which, ultimately, is what the petition amounted to. As it turns out, rallying against the retail giant on change.org really didn't accomplish anything, despite the nearly 200,000 cyber signers who believed in Anthony Hardwick's dream that Americans would circumvent their consumerist tendencies, have a tidy evening at home with their people and maybe even stay in bed until 4 a.m. for Target's "normal" 5 a.m. opening of yore.

One of my friends went to Target at 2 a.m., only to discover a camera he wanted to buy for his daughter was sold out. That's because fools rushed in — oops, sorry — folks rushed in just past the midnight hour and bought them all.

Early shopping now will become normal in our kids' lives, much like iPods and Smartphones, wi-fi and xBox. Their Thanksgiving memories will be considerably different from those of their parents and grandparents, who put coins into pay phones on the corner, shopped at mom-and-pop-stores when big-box stores and even bigger parking lots dotting the landscape were still theories, sent a willing soul to the 7-Eleven to fetch whatever was forgotten on Turkey Day since all the supermarkets were closed so the workers could be with their families, and who faithfully watched the old version of "American Idol," when Paula Abdul was a judge.

Those relatives remember preparing a sumptuous meal — even if it was just hot dogs and beans — on the fourth Thursday of November, letting the tryptophan in the system settle and spending family time on a chilly day. My gosh. Last week we didn't even get the chill, as the mercury inched to perfect spring-like weather. Climate change much?

Who didn't complain about the oncoming midnight madness of this past Thanksgiving? Before the fact, I didn't hear anyone in favor. But afterwards, I heard about a great deal on a washer-dryer combo and TVs and how tired everyone was after the onslaught.

Americans did good (yes, I know I should say "well"). At last count, the National Retail Federation tells us that, despite low incomes, no incomes and stock-market tumbles, we spent $52.4 billion last weekend, up from $45 billion last year. The NRF further says that 226 million of us shopped in stores or online. But wait, there's more. Population-wise we total 311 million people, give or take a couple. So, presumably only 85 million of us did not spend money between Black Friday Eve — Walmart opened at 10 p.m. — and Cyber Monday, which is America's top online shopping day. At press time, it was expected that Monday sales would top $1.2 billion, up from $1 billion last year.

Aside from myself, who are the 85 million who failed to shop? I'm guessing prisoners, the hospitalized and newborns.

Change.org offered a counter petition to Anthony Hardwick, who is a Target employee. The petition, which so far is signed by 10 people, calls out Hardwick for being "ridiculous. There are so many people who would love to have a job to go to any Friday, period!" it says. "Big deal, get over it! Target could have asked their employees to work at 11 a.m. and he would not have been able to eat Thanksgiving dinner with his family at all ... It was a choice for him to work at Target. ..."

Well, with nearly 10 percent of the nation unemployed, and higher for some regions and ethnic groups, there is a point to be made about corporate America stepping outside their door and hiring fresh faces if the current crop doesn't follow orders.

Anybody who thinks that consumerism is not king is not looking. We like to think we're beyond all that, but boy, do we love to shop.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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