Tony Dobrowolski | Out Of The Pages: Thanks for working so others could eat

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PITTSFIELD >> A few leftover thoughts from Thanksgiving Day.

Kudos to those who had to work on the holiday itself. I know how that feels. I can't count the number of Thanksgiving Days I worked when I was a sportswriter employed in a state where playing high school football on Turkey Day was practically a religion.

It's not easy working on a holiday when everybody else is off. Luckily, for me the Thanksgiving Day high school football games that I had to cover always took place in the morning, so I usually only had to work about half of the day.

I feel for you if you had to work the entire day. But I also want to congratulate you for your service. Without you, restaurants wouldn't be open so people without families would have no place to go. Without you, there wouldn't be anyone to respond to the routine public safety issues that occur everyday. Without you, no one would be in hospitals to take care of emergencies. There would be nobody to report the news either (daily journalism, like public safety, health care, and the food service industry, doesn't take the holidays off).

We take a lot of these services for granted if we're not directly involved in them. I know holiday workers don't receive a lot of recognition for what they do. But without knowing it, you make Thanksgiving Day better, safer and much healthier for lots of people.

We should also be thankful for our blue laws. They may be strange, outdated and quaint, a remnant of Massachusetts' Puritanical past, but they do prevent those employed in the retail industry from having to work on Thanksgiving Day itself.

I know some of you had to go in late on Thanksgiving Day to prepare for Black Friday. I'm sure that was tough. But if you lived anywhere else besides Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island this year you would have had no Thanksgiving Day at all.

Some stores in other states opened as early as 2 p.m. on Thursday. Walmarts in some states were open for 24 hours on Thanksgiving, although the doorbuster holiday sales didn't begin until 6 p.m.

Here's a discouraging statistic: Twenty eight percent of Americans said they planned to eat an earlier Thanksgiving dinner this year in order to get an early start on shopping, according to EBates 2015 Holiday survey. One in five said they would scope out deals instead of cooking earlier in the day. That's the holiday spirit!

We've become accustomed to stores opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Day, but believe it or not the number of people who work the holiday itself actually used to be greater before all this retail madness started.

The number of employers who require at least some people to work on the holiday has been between 33 and 37 percent since 2012, according to Bloomberg BNA's 2015 Thanksgiving Holiday Practices Survey. But that percentage consistently exceeded 40 percent from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, and topped out at 48 percent in 2000.

Maybe that's one reason a lot of national retailers decided to give their employees a break this year.

At least 22 national retailers refused to open on Thanksgiving Day this year, according to mentalfloss.com, a business website. Some of them, like BJ's Wholesale Club, TJ Maxx, and Staples have outlets in the Berkshires.

Staples was actually open on Thanksgiving in 2013 and 2014, but changed its policy this year.

"We want our customers and associates to enjoy Thanksgiving their own way," Demos Parneros, the president of Staples North American stores told the business website Mental Floss.com.

Crossing the border

In last week's column, I wrote about spending Thanksgiving in Canada when I lived there, and how the holiday's occurrence in early October prevented a Canadian version of Black Friday from taking place.

Well, I haven't been to Canada for awhile now, and it appears that things have changed. Just like everything else American that gradually seems to seep over the Canadian border, Black Friday is beginning to catch on in the Great White North.

With the Canadian dollar worth only 75 cents of the American dollar as of last week, Canadian retailers were "gearing up for a "frenzied Black Friday," The Toronto Sun reported.

According to the Sun, the Black Friday tradition in Canada began five years ago. It's already surpassed Boxing Day — as the day after Christmas in Canada is known — in terms of total sales.

But since there's no Thanksgiving Day holiday, the retail crush up there happens differently.

"People come in before work, during their lunch hour ... punch out from work early," Craig Flannagan, the vice president of consumer marketing with the Canadian commercial real estate firm Cadillac Fairview told the Toronto Sun.

"So we don't have the door crash mentality," he said.

How nice.

Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com.


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