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A dark day for families: Black Thursday

Leftover turkey and pumpkin pie have been stowed in the refrigerator; coffee cups have been cleared from the dining room table; many in the family are plopped down in front of the TV to catch the end of the Cowboys-Redskins game and wait for the Patriots and Jets to kick off.

While this homey Thanksgiving tableau plays out in most households this Thursday, one more scene will take place in a growing number of households: Stuffed diners will put on coats, grab car keys and head to the mall.

That's because such big-box retailers as Wal-Mart, Sears and Toys R Us will open their doors at 8 p.m., followed by Target at 9, to kick off the start of the holiday shopping season.

This newspaper sympathizes with the plight of retailers struggling to sell merchandise in an increasingly competitive market, especially when holiday sales account for such a substantial percentage of their annual revenues.

Still, it is troubling that crass commercialization has contaminated perhaps the most American and family-oriented of U.S. holidays.

We have gotten used to President's Day furniture sales, Fourth of July car sales and a host of other marketing promotions tied to virtually every other holiday, but until a few years ago retailers always abided by an unwritten rule against commerce on Thanksgiving Day.

Instead, they focused all their marketing on the day after, Black Friday, when stores would open in the morning to admit a crush of frantic shoppers driven by the promise of early bargains.

Soon, it became a contest to see who could open earliest - 8 a.m. gave way to 6 a.m., which became 4 a.m., 2 a.m., then midnight.

Now we have so-called Black Thursday, and it's easy to see how this year's 8 p.m. openings could shift to 6 p.m. next year, after which some will jump the gun to 4, and so on. Eventually, Thanksgiving could become like just any other shopping day.

Our objections are two-fold.

Thanksgiving often is the one time a year different generations gather at the same table - grandchildren, children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sharing memories with their meal.

First, we would hate to hear somebody at the table say, "We'd better hurry with dessert or else we may not get a good spot in line for a flat-screen TV."

And second, we would regret to hear the words from a store employee at the table, "Gee, I'd better get ready for work."

Some who are sympathetic to the plight of clerks and cashiers forced to work on Thanksgiving are calling for consumer boycotts of stores running Black Thursday promotions.

While we don't necessarily endorse such organized anti-shopping protests, we agree with their goals.

Stay home. Have a second (or third) piece of pie. Chat with relatives. Take a nap on the couch.

The store will always be open the next day.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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