AN OPEN LETTER TO RETAILERS
You won’t see me in your stores on Thanksgiving Day. And, because I have a little list of companies whose ethics do not meet my minimum standards, you won’t be seeing me the rest of the year, either.
Thanksgiving was one of the two holidays when there was not a sale. When everyone agreed that the place to be was at home, watching a parade or a game on TV, visiting with family and extended family, cooking a turkey, burning the marshmallow topping on the sweet potatoes, and explaining the meaning of Thanksgiving to the youngest kids. And yes, sometimes fighting over dumb stuff like who won the last Rose Bowl or the ill-considered practices of the International Monetary Fund.
Why do we have to abandon an American family tradition in favor of rushing out to a big store, fighting the crowds, desperately hunting for Christmas presents? Are we having Thanksgiving at McDonald’s this year, after we’ve run up the credit cards, exhausted ourselves and got a ding in the bumper in the WalMart parking lot? Of course, it could be worse. You could be assaulted in the WalMart parking lot by some other stressed out shopper who’s been whipped into a frenzy by corporate greed. Happy Thanksgiving.
Why this obsession with Christmas presents? And not with finding the perfect gift for the recipient. No, we’ve got to have the trendy gift, the gift that shows we’re successful—we must be, right? because it’s an expensive gift (or would be, if we hadn’t got up early to rush to WalMart or some other trash emporium to get the super-duper special low Thanksgiving Day price—hurry, hurry, only 5 of these in stock! Or any gift at all—because shopping is so stressful and such a bore, and we can get Aunts Ruby, Joanna, Emma and Verna one of these polyester sweaters, because they live in different parts of the country and will never know they all got the same thing. That’s four gifts taken care of, just like that. Is it Emma who hates green or is it Joanna? It doesn’t matter. She can always return it. Parenthetically, I will add that in fact those sweaters will end up in the local thrift store, with the tag still in place. So will the cool electric wonton maker you saw on one of those cooking shows and gave to your mother-in-law, who hates Chinese food and doesn’t cook if she can avoid it.
And the kids! They’ll be scarred for life if they don’t get that new game console this year, and never mind if you’re still paying the credit card bill next August. Giving them everything they ask for (because they’ve seen the ads on TV) proves you love them, doesn’t it?
I have nothing against giving gifts at Christmas or Solstice or any other time. But I hate the culture of greed that tries to make us think we must buy more, more, more, and heaven forbid we should ask ourselves why. And if we let this slide, if we buy into the advertising-created hysteria, and shop on Thanksgiving Day, these stores will be open on Christmas Day—for that last minute gift! So you can exchange something you didn’t like that same day! So those retailers can wring another few million out of us.
WalMart was already on my list of places never to shop (bad employment and outsourcing practices which are helping to destroy our economy), but now Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Target, KMart and all the others who are open on Thanksgiving can also count me out. I’ll be cooking a free-range turkey, watching a video and sipping champagne in a holiday stress-free zone.