Black Friday! Big Retailers Gone Wild!

Black Friday! Big Retailers Gone Wild!

It’s Black Friday! Let’s Shop!

What does it mean to be thankful?  For my family, we embrace the predictable practices of watching the parades in the morning and getting together with friends and family for a fabulous meal in the evening.  If we are back in Baltimore and I can be with my older sister, we get up early Friday morning to go holiday shopping and take advantage of the “door buster” sales.  We know that the bigger retailers (Walmart, Kmart, Macy’s, Target etc.) will have the greatest deals and discounts early in the morning.

But how early is really too early and will it really make much of a difference whether we shop at 7:00 a.m. or 12 midnight?

This year, the effects of Black Friday are hitting home.  My friend, Sophie, is scheduled to work tonight.  First, she’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.  I am sure that she will relish spending time with her many nieces, grandnieces and grand nephews.  Sophie, a widow, is 74 years old.  Spending time with family, especially on holidays like Thanksgiving is a rare treat.

But after the food has been eaten, the desserts consumed and the left overs parceled out amongst the different households, instead of going home, Sophie will go to work.

Sophie has worked at one of the major department stores for over twenty years.  At first she worked there because she wanted the employee discount, now she works there because she genuinely needs the money.  Unlike many people her age, Sophie is a spry and energetic woman. I’m sure that she has an occasional ache and pain but  she rarely complains about them.  However, she has slowed down a bit recently and gets tired more easily than she did a few years ago.

Tonight this senior citizen is working the mid-night to 10:00 a.m. shift at a suburban department store because, she says, she has to.

Wait? She has to?  I thought that employees LOVED working the Black Friday early morning hours, right?

According to Brad Tuttle’s recent article in Moneyland Time entitled Do Extended Black Friday Hours Actually Increase Sales?,  “…the decision makers at many national stores are taking a literal approach by actually making Black Friday longer than a day, with extended sale hours that actually start on Thursday. The idea is: If something works, then more of it will work better.”  According to many retail analysts, this justification is not accurate.  “Instead of increasing sales, extended hours tend to just redistribute sales over a longer time period. Some consumers may be happier with the extended hours—preferring to shop at midnight on Thanksgiving night rather than 4 a.m. on Friday morning—but they’re unlikely to spend more overall.”

If the impact of “door busting sales” or early incentives isn’t drawing consumers into stores like they used to or impact spending, then why are large chain stores ruining Thanksgiving for many workers by making them come in on a national holiday?

Tuttle’s answer is clear: “We all feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, and no one likes to be left behind.” And that brings me back to Sophie’s story.

Because department stores and big retailers don’t want to be “left behind”, the executives and managers are willing to do what they feel is necessary to ensure that there is staff even when the customers don’t show, say at 2:00 a.m.  Sophie told me that she has never been asked to work on Thanksgiving in the past but has always volunteered to work on “Black Friday” because she gets “time and a half” also known as “holiday pay.” For someone on a fixed a budget, she explains “I can make a lot more working the day after a holiday than at other times of the year.”  But this year, she was told that she HAS to work on Thanksgiving and that all employees are expected to take a shift.  As a way to compensate their employees, the store will offer “box lunches” to the staff.  When I reacted somewhat sarcastically to her explanation, Sophie told me that this was the first year that store has ever given ANYTHING to the staff who work the graveyard shift on Thanksgiving.

I have to be honest, until this year, I never really thought about how staff feel regarding Black Friday.  I figured, like me, there was a certain excitement to shopping at midnight.  And Sophie agreed that being in the store when it opens at mid-night is thrilling but after the first group of shoppers have completed their sales, the store is basically “dead for a few hours.”  She admitted that the next wave of enthusiastic deal seekers will appear around 5:30 a.m. I may be one of them.

I know that this year’s shopping excursion will differ from the ones of the past.  This year, I commit to being more thankful and grateful to the many workers who give up their holiday to work on Black Friday.  Maybe I will give them an extra “thank you” as I complete my transactions?  Or ask one or two people if I can get them a cup of coffee? Even if they decline the offer, I want to be sure that the many clerks, security guards and other staff  like Sophie know that I see and appreciate their willingness to work even if I am buying just a pair of gloves or a toaster at 4 o’clock in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving.  As for Sophie?  I intend to call her at 2 o’clock this morning (yes, I will be setting my alarm) tonight so she knows that she is not alone and is loved by many.


Finding Ways to Let Memories Live On

Finding Ways to Let Memories Live On

Thank you to LiveOn for this sponsored opportunity to blog about storing and sharing my most important memories with those closest to me. Although story ideas were provided, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Our Family Tree

 The Best Things In Life Aren’t Things

It is Thanksgiving which means that we are spending time with family, telling tall tales and sharing somewhat obscure childhood memories.   For instance, I recall that my grandmother, Anne, would tell me the story of a small dog named “Mewflu” who traveled the world and went on great adventures.  This was a story that she used to tell her students when she taught school in the 1930’s and early 40’s.  As I got older, I stopped asking her to tell me the story and eventually I just forgot about it all together. Now that I have a child, I wish I could remember the story of Mewflu.  I’ve asked my mother and my sisters if they can recall the tale but everyone comes up with a different version (thus the obscured memories.)

Wouldn’t be wonderful if there was a way to capture the story of MewFlu as well as all of the fantastic stories my grandmother told me when I was a child?  Instead of relying on the recall of someone’s memory, the original storyteller (in this case my grandmother) could tell the story herself.

Fortunately the creators of the newest virtual scrapbook, LiveOn, website thought of that! Now you can create your own life timeline (birth, grade school, high school graduation, marriage, children etc) by either using the site’s suggested life milestones or by creating your own.  I created one for Adam and my 2010 anniversary trip to Italy. Not only was I able to upload ALL of the pictures we took, I also included some video we shot.  For each picture, I recorded the date that the photo was shot, where we were and what we were doing.  You can make the memory as simple as you want (just pictures from the event) or complicated (adding music and interesting graphics.)

You can also record (via video or written word) favorite memories. We asked Kayla to tell us her thoughts about Santa Claus this year.  When she is thirty, she’ll be able to connect to LiveOn and see herself as a child talk about the things that were important to her (like Santa Claus).  I  would like to ask her to video tape herself on the same day each year until she graduates from high school discussing topics relevant to her life.  Another idea for a great timeline!  K’s thoughts and feelings through her years at home!  Not only will she get a kick out of hearing/seeing herself over the years but her children will love listening to her as well.

There are so many options available to the user that the choices get a bit overwhelming.  For an avid “scrapbooker” like me, having a virtual/interactive site is both a dream come true and a nightmare: too many choices! Since the site was introduced a few weeks ago, I have spent a lot of time perfecting my photo memories and playing with the various presentation choices (which picture did I want to be the for the title picture on the timeline?  Where do I want to insert the video?  Do I want to record a new video talking about the experience?)  If that wasn’t enough, I also invited all of my sisters to log on to the site as a member of my “tribe” and upload their own pictures and video.

LiveOn also features a second called “Smart Questions” in which the  site’s visitor (or admin) can answer personal questions that might lead a reader to understand or even to appreciate her ancestors.  I am sure that it would be great to hear my grandmother tell me her about her favorite holiday tradition and compare my answers to hers.  My daughter and her daughter can continue the tradition to the joy and benefit of future generations.

As the weeks and months progress, I’m confident that my “tribe” will continue to upload pictures/videos of our children, our parents and each other at various stages of childhood.  It is exciting to visit their perspectives of the various incidents in our collective lives.   Despite living in different parts of the country, LiveOn gives us a chance to collaborate together to record our history.  As a result of our efforts, we will leave a memory legacy to our children, grandchildren and possibly great-grandchildren that can truly transform how our family celebrates Thanksgiving for years to come.

My Wedding October 29, 2000

Thank you again to LiveOn for sponsoring this blog post. Please click here LiveOn to learn more about storing and sharing your most special memories. I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.