For some families, Black Friday is as much a holiday as Thanksgiving itself. Parents will drag kids and out-of-town relatives out of bed, sleep still tucked into the corner of their eyes, to wait anxiously as stores open before the sun has even had a chance to rouse itself from slumber. Why? For one thing, the savings are enough to drag even the crankiest of sleepyheads out of bed to save a buck or hundreds. And the thought of completing most, if not all, of your Christmas shopping in one day is tantalizing for many busy parents, to say the least.
On the other hand, Black Friday has become less about savings and more about pushing the limits on America's consumption habits; stores have nudged their hours earlier and earlier, with many opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. This forces many retail workers, who are most likely already over-worked or underpaid, to give up time they would normally spend taking a well-deserved post-turkey nap or chatting with their loved ones. Instead, they must punch the timecard so that the deal-ravenous masses can satisfy their bargain-hunting urges.
But some stores have finally said "enough." Most recently, outdoor retailer REI announced it will shutter completely for Black Friday. The store is encouraging its 12,000 employees at all of its 143 store locations (who will be paid for the day off) to #OptOutside, enjoy the company of family and friends, and remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the first place.
"[It] is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected, and complete when you choose to spend it outside," said Jerry Stritzke, REI's president and CEO, in a press release.
Plus, with the booming trend of "Cyber Monday," when online outlets slash prices for the weekend following Black Friday, it's not as necessary to schlep to the shopping mall and stampede other shoppers for the chance of a sale. (Cyber Monday has proven more successful, anyway.)
REI is setting an extraordinary example that will, with any hope, catch on. Personally? I will relinquish the opportunity to nab cashmere sweaters at half the cost if it means I can catch some extra hours of sleep and nibble on cold pumpkin pie. I'll take shopping on my laptop with my flannel pants on, thank you very much. If Black Friday has come to mean that we will throw punches, destruct property, stampede over others, and shoplift, all in the pursuit of discount DVD players, it would be nice to see companies wave it off. My family has never been crazy about the trend—really, we've never participated at all—and our Christmas shopping has been none the worse.
There is an element of bonding, though, for those families that love the Friday after Thanksgiving. Would they feel robbed of irresistible discounts if Black Friday were no more? Maybe, but if more retailers think twice about taking away their employees' valuable time to connect with family, maybe Thanksgiving will become that much more cherished. Plus, it gives us more time to enjoy leftover Turkey-cranberry sandwiches.
Brooke Bunce is an editorial assistant at Parents and a life-long Midwesterner stuck in the big city. You can follow her on Twitter: @brookeebunce.