Working on Thanksgiving? Please stop whining

All this moaning and groaning and whining and kvetching about stores being open on Thanksgiving and what a terrible thing this is for America and how it’s proof that the terrorists have won is giving me a headache.

I’ve worked in newsrooms all my life. It’s a 24/7 business, and there’s no such thing as a “guaranteed” day off. When the pope died on a Saturday, I got into my car and hightailed it to Manhattan. Same when the space shuttle Columbia blew up. Same when Elian Gonzales was seized. When the war in Iraq started at 8:30 p.m., I turned around and went back to work. When Saddam Hussein was executed at 4 in the morning, I woke up and got to work. I sat in the stands at Yankee Stadium one October night and watched Reggie Jackson hit three home runs . . . and then, when the rest of New York was hoisting beers, I went to work.

Not to mention that I always worked on Christmas, because that’s the least a non-Christian can do. It ensured that at least one of my Christian friends could have the day off.

I’ve also worked on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, July 4, Memorial Day, Presidents Day, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Easter, Good Friday, Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, as well.

Only one day is sacred . . . Opening Day. (We’ll save that for another post.)

But I’ve worked all the others. It’s called having a job. And sometimes you have to show up because that’s what you do when you have a job.

So I’m having a real hard time seeing all this hand-wringing about how Black Friday has become Black Thursday (or Brown Thursday, as some clowns are calling it for no apparent reason whatsoever), and how people shouldn’t have to work on Thanksgiving because they have some sort of god-given right to stay home, stuff their faces, argue with family and watch football, and how cruel and heartless their employers are when they open their doors for customers on that day and tell workers they are expected to be there, too.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Thanksgiving. I love everything about it. But turning it into some sort of protected American religious holiday is wrong. Stores have a right to open, and employers have a right to insist that their workers be there. It’s how work works.

Should the employers seek volunteers? Sure. Should they make it more attractive by offering time-and-a-half, or double-time, or bonus pay? Absolutely.

But if customers are eager to come to Walmart or McDonald’s or Kmart or Wendy’s or Sears or Burger King or Target or KFC . . . then those stores aren’t opening their doors to be cruel to their employees; they’re opening because the public wants in.

If I want to go to Walmart tomorrow (which I don’t), and if Walmart wants to open its doors for me (which it does), and if you happen to work at Walmart (my sympathies) . . . then you have an obligation to your employer and your customers to do your job.

Do you have the right not to work tomorrow? Absolutely. You can stay home.

Do you have the right to keep your job if the boss insists she needs you at work? No, you don’t.

You can quit.

You probably won’t. But if you’re not going to quit your job, please quit the whining.

And if you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t have to work, please quit wailing about how the stores should be closed. They’re open because your friends and neighbors want to go shopping. That’s just how it works.

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5 thoughts on “Working on Thanksgiving? Please stop whining

  1. Let’s not overlook the fact that not everyone has family or friends with whom to celebrate holidays, and might seek other diversion. Maybe people shop on holidays because they don’t have anything else to do.

    I agree with your point about stores being open because enough people apparently plan to be there. And, if you want to keep your job, you work when required or look for another job. Remember, years ago, almost all businesses were closed on Sunday. People managed to survive by shopping on Saturday or Monday. I think they could probably do the same on holidays – and Sundays – now. IMO, if the stores were closed on holidays, people would manage to make the same purchases on another day.

    When I worked for American Airlines, back in the dark ages, I worked holidays, weekends and nights. Ten days in a row, sometimes. Planes flew. I worked. Planes didn’t fly. I worked until they flew again. I had roommates who were stewardesses. Planes flew. They might be winging their way to Karachi. No turkey or Christmas tree there.

    People who run out of other things to complain about will complain about stores being open. They’ll probably be the first ones in line for the bargains. People who want to shop will complain if they’re not open. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. Don’t like it? Don’t shop.


  2. Excellent piece. Agree 100%. My civil-service parents never understood why, as a journalist, I’ve worked weekends, graveyard shifts, and all the holidays you mention. (You forgot the worst one, Election Day.) It was part of my job. ‘Nuff said.


  3. We sometimers forget just how good we have it in this oountry. Everyone works hard, but with this holiday a “short” one before Christmas, because of how the calendar falls, it’s understandable that stores, who often do a huge amount of their yearly business around this time of year, are eager to boost sales any way they can. We’re a very spoiled country. We need to stop grousing about how bad this situation is and look on the positive side. All the guys and gals who have worked through holidays – the “older” crowd….they understand!


  4. Thank you! I couldn’t have said it better myself! As a society, we’ve turned into a bunch of self entitled whiners. I’m sick of hearing how it’s unfair retail workers have to work holidays. Boo hoo. Don’t like it? Do something with your life and get a job with paid holidays. Hey, I also bet you’d make more money too! No, minimum wage shouldn’t be $15 an hour. That’s another argument that’s been driving me nuts. You want $15 an hour? Get a better job. It IS possible, you just have to work for it.

    A disclaimer, yes, I’ve worked retail. No, I didn’t bitch about working holidays. It’s part of the job. It was a temporary means to an end until I moved up in the world.


  5. I have to reply to the comment regarding minimum wage. As you stated, if you want a higher salary, become qualified for a better job.

    As an employer for many years, I hired high school students as part time workers. They stamped and sorted brochures, filed, did various other tasks and learned basic business skills. As they became capable of more responsible tasks, they were given other jobs and a raise. They were happy to find part time after school jobs and were a big help.

    If I hadn’t been able to hire them at minimum wage, they wouldn’t have had the job. It was a question of paying them what they were worth for the job they did.

    I also worked part time after school. I was paid a salary I assume was intended for a part time employee. It was my choice to accept it or not. It worked for me and I enjoyed the job and the opportunity. As I recall, it was .75 an hour, not bad at the time. It gave me work experience and my own spending money.

    It’s impossible to get on the bandwagon for the higher minimum wage. I know what the end result will be: fewer employees and shorter hours.

    Be careful what you wish for.


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