Thanks for not shopping [Commentary]

Black Friday has crept into a sacred holiday

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Please join me in not buying a darn thing this Thanksgiving Day.

Have an extra piece of pie, take a nap, watch a little football, drink too much, fight with your in-laws. Just don't shop.

"Black Friday creep," as they called it when it began a couple of years ago, has crept all the way into Thanksgiving Day, with at least one retailer opening before dawn Thursday and several others staying open straight through until Friday at midnight.

There is a finite amount of Christmas money out there each year, and stores are racing to the front of the line to grab yours. We should have seen this coming when Black Friday became Black-in-the-Middle-of-the-Night Friday.

This week marks the official start of Christmas shopping, a time when struggling retailers can count on moving from the red to the black on their balance sheets. But stores have been advertising Christmas since October, urging customers to get started early because there are only 28 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the shortest shopping season in more than a decade.

It has worked, too. An estimated 50 percent of shoppers started early. That's OK. I get that. I actually did a good bit of Christmas shopping at the beach in the summer.

But only a handful of major retailers — Nordstrom, Home Depot, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, BJs and Costco — are not opening at all on Thursday. Most of the others will be open by 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. (I am not naming them because I don't want to reward this bad behavior.)

Cops, reporters, and hospital personnel all have to work on Thanksgiving. But do we have to shop? Do we have to wreck the holiday for store clerks and their families?

And besides, don't you hate how this looks? To the world, I mean? Long lines of people — some of them fighting or trampling each other, even spraying each other with Mace — scrambling to buy stuff. If the Chinese did something like this, we would be shaking our heads.

This disturbing trend has taken some congestion out of Black Friday, for those who enjoy that madness. Last year, Walmart, Macy's and Target entertained 35 million shoppers on Thanksgiving Day. The result is sales fell on Black Friday, by almost 2 percent, for the first time since the recession began in 2008.

If you are absolutely bored by 7 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, go online to shop. There will be plenty of bargains there this year, you can count on it. But at least local television news cameras won't be recording your greed and impatience for the entire world to see, and one more minimum-wage retail worker can be home with his family and friends.

I figure you are either a shopper or you are not. I am not. I don't shop on Black Friday. I sure as heck won't shop on Thanksgiving Day. And not just because it is a hassle. I don't want to be that kind of person.

I don't want to be the kind of person who can't stop shopping for a single day. The kind of person who can't stop shopping even on a sacred holiday. A holiday when we give thanks for the things we already have. A day when we might well be ashamed to be grasping for more.

I just don't want to be the kind of person who shops on Thanksgiving. Join me.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at susan.reimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com


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