In the wake of an impressively progressive election season, let’s carry the concept of human rights into the massive holiday shopping season. The constant advertising and promotion for us to shop on Black Friday is enough to make me spit up! Making all those deals happen involves horrific and abusive employment practices.
Workers are being exploited like never before. Walmarts around the country will be open 24 hours and are holding holiday sales on Thanksgiving itself for the first time. The situation is so bad that Walmart employees are mounting unprecedented protests and the retail giant is pulling out every dirty trick to try to stop them. Have you no decency Walmart?
Please consider some simple facts before you surge into the shopping madness this weekend.
- For you to shop at 2 o’clock, someone has to be there at 1:00 to set up the store; or stay after closing the night before so all the special advertising material isn’t shown before the sale begins.
- The stores and malls that offer shockingly “great” deals for earlybirds have to be staffed by people, people who should have lives of their own.
- Most of those retail staff are underpaid; many try to support families on wages below poverty without benefits.
- Before you shout “But they’ll earn great commissions!” please realize that most retailers drastically reduce commission levels (if they offer them at all) starting on the day after Thanksgiving because it’s “too easy” to earn the extra money being run off your feet by extra hoards of shoppers fighting over the last Tickle Me Bieber–I think I just made myself spit up a little with that one.
- Many of those workers rely on public transportation, which doesn’t operate during the hours it takes to get to the workplace to staff these special sales. So even if they get commissions or overtime (or just extra work hours), those minimal wages get eaten up with cab fare or parking fees paid while they deprive the rest of the family of the one vehicle they own.
- You don’t need a bargain so badly that it’s worth going to the store at 4a.m., and an extra 5% off the latest Wii isn’t worth your sleep or your time with your family. Really.
So please join me in saying “NO” to abusive sales practices. If you have any other local choices, stay away from Walmart. While you’re at it, avoid JCPenney, which promised to skip Black Friday back in February but has reneged on that oath.
- Shop local businesses with rational hours.
- Participate in American Express’ Small Business Saturday program.
- Stay home, save the emissions, and shop online.
- Know the business practices of the major retailers;
Times are hard, so shop smart and save where you can. But please remember the thousands of people it takes to get that bargain ready for you, and treat them with human kindness this holiday season.