Massachusetts stays true to its blue laws
There’s no better phrase than conspicuous consumption to describe the orgy of excess that is Black Friday. The first day of the traditional holiday shopping season had been creeping earlier into the predawn morning after Thanksgiving.
This year, Walmart and Toys R Us decided to go for broke and open on Thanksgiving evening. Walmart decided to open at 10pm. Not to be outdone, Toys R Us went for 9 pm. With the economy still sluggish, retailers are eager to reel in holiday shoppers and to get a jump on the online outlets that have been steadily draining businesses away from bricks and mortar stores.
But if there is a force stronger than conspicuous consumption, it is the Bay State’s blue laws. Under the 21st century rendering of the 17th century edicts, employees cannot work until after 12 am on certain holidays, including Thanksgiving.
The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development website says that work may be performed on restricted holidays like Thanksgiving, provided the retailer obtains a local police permit and approval of the Department of Labor Standards.
Suffice to say those approvals won’t be forthcoming. “This agency has not issued a statewide permit to allow retail stores to be open or permit work on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day,’’ Patricia DeAngelis, general counsel for the Department of Labor Standards, told The Boston Globe. “The spirit of the law and intent is to give people a day off, and that is why this state has exercised that authority in the way it has.’’
The Bay State’s blue laws are the best defense for retail workers to maintain some semblance of a family holiday against over-eager retailers and those crazed shoppers who are willing to maim and kill to get a good deal not long after they’ve snapped the last turkey wishbone.
Though Massachusetts retailers complained about losing business to neighboring states with earlier opening hours, they were quick to capitulate. Wrentham Village Premium Outlets will open at 12:01 am. Macy’s will open at 12:30 am. Target and Best Buy pushed back to 1:00 am. Walmart went back to a 4:00 am opening.
Elsewhere, there is a small but significant backlash growing against this latest display of consumer capitalism run amok. One Nebraska Target worker started an online petition against the stores’ Thanksgiving hours that has attracted the support of nearly 100,000 people. There are 26 similar petitions circulating online.
Even the rationale for Black Friday is coming under fire. Though most retailers count on the holiday period to get into the black, Adam Davidson of National Public Radio’s Planet Money, argues in The New York Times that they should strive for “a few months” of Black Friday discounts to improve their bottom lines rather than relying on an intense burst of consumer spending.
Perhaps the best response is to just say no. The Washington Post’s Michelle Singletary implores people to stay home, reminding readers that the much trumpeted savings are anything but. “Saving is an act signified by the absence of spending,” she says.
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