Houston-area employees speak up about having Thanksgiving Day off
As the bombardment of flashy Black Friday advertisements seems to increase every year, it is difficult to remember a time before Thanksgiving became a national shopping day.
According to History.com, the retail industry transformed the Friday after Thanksgiving into a shopping event in the 1980s. In recent years, as more and more consumers camped out in store parking lots, others rebelled by celebrating #buynothingday, according to USA Today.
People often take issue with stores opening for Thanksgiving because employees then must work instead of celebrating the holiday with family.
Debate continues over the morality of requiring employees to work on holidays, but rarely are the employees themselves able to join the conversation.
Some Houston employees at stores closing for Thanksgiving in 2017 discussed what having the day off means to them.
Nancy Bobyk, the Design Center Manager for a Houston area Ethan Allen, said giving employees Thanksgiving off maintains positive morale in the workplace.
“I think everyone is very appreciative of having this special day off,” Bobyk said. “I think it would be very difficult to schedule people that day with so many varying personal commitments.”
Having worked Thanksgiving Day in years past at a previous grocery store job, current Costco supervisor Tami Morse said she missed family time because of work.
“You lose the holiday when everybody is working and stressing out about shopping the very next day,” Morse said. “That’s not what it’s about.”
Thanksgiving Day has slowly become a stage for controversy, as retailers and consumers alike choose between participating in and abstaining from so-called Black Thursday shopping.
One of the few retailers to choose such a solution, REI executives decided in 2015 to close stores for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday as part of their #OptOutside campaign.
Ann Bewley, Houston outdoor programs and outreach market coordinator for REI, said it is important to give employees days off on holidays.
“Retail, especially during holiday seasons, can be stressful,” Bewley said. “Why not let them have that time to relax, spend time with their friends and families, or recreate as they’d like?”
Genna Riggens, a visual merchandiser for Houston’s IKEA, said there should be a balance between work and your personal life.
“I come from a really large family so it’s hard for us to get together during the year,” Riggens said. “Thanksgiving is definitely one of the times where it’s possible for us all to gather and celebrate, share food and stories and reminisce, so it’s definitely more than just another day off.”
Some assert retailers closing stores on Thanksgiving is a marketing tactic rather than a moral epiphany, according to the Atlantic.com. However, Meghan McCain, a head cashier at a Houston area Barnes & Noble, said that getting holidays off impacts her work ethic.
“It definitely has a positive impact on the way my coworkers and I work, and it also demonstrates Barnes & Noble’s commitment to being a family company,” McCain said.
District Manager for Mattress Firm Sarah Mourer said having the holidays off is a benefit to her team.
“When employees believe their company cares about them, they feel more appreciation at work which in turn can make employees happier at work,” Mourer said.
Macy’s spokeswoman Holly Thomas cited “significant, ongoing customer interest” as a reason for opening Thanksgiving Day, according to USA Today. However, according to the National Retail Federation, Thanksgiving Day shopping increased by one percent in 2016 from previous years.
Costco supervisor Nathan Lilly said most customers view Costco in a positive light for giving its employees the day off.
“People respect the fact that Costco takes care of its employees,” Lilly said.
While some companies pay their employees during holidays stores are closed, a holiday off may mean a day’s worth of income lost for employees without paid holidays.
Bobyk said that most Ethan Allen employees don’t see having the holiday off as a financial burden, however.
“It has never been an inconvenience or hardship, and I know this sentiment is shared by all my fellow employees,” Bobyk said.
With Hurricane Harvey still affecting the lives of many Houstonians, this holiday season will be unique for many, to say the least. Mattress Firm District Manager Ben Del Bosque recalled a saying about natural disaster recovery.
“People who have endured disasters like this have a saying: ‘It’s not about surviving the storm; It’s about surviving after the storm,’” Del Bosque said.
“For many families, this will truly be a year of giving thanks for the blessings we have in our lives.”