Black Friday Is Out of !@#*ing Control

With ridiculous seasonal hours, retailers are ruining Thanksgiving—and shopping!—for all of us

I’ve always been afraid of Black Friday. I get a little skittish around big sales in general. It’s not that I don’t relish deals—I practically have an entire drawer populated with Gap three-for-two camis—I just don’t like the crowds big sales attract. Or the heat the crowds create. Or the jabbing in rib cages it takes to find your size. And Black Friday, well, that is rather a Big Sale Perfect Storm filled with people who have lost their minds.

So, I avoid it. I stay inside hosing down leftovers on Black Fridays, and, with that agenda set, don’t pay much attention to the various deals being advertised. But this year, it was impossible not to notice when all the Black Friday business started up. Because, as I read in horror, store after store after store announced that this year, instead of opening at the already questionable and ungodly hours of 4 or 5 a.m., that they would now be opening their doors on Thanksgiving night.

Yes, Black Friday devotees, instead of unbuttoning your pants and passing out on the couch to the background din of football and squabbling family members like normal people do after they’ve gorged on Thanksgiving dinner, this year, the stores would like to invite you to swallow that pie, slap on some elastic-waist sweatpants, and head out into the frigid night to buy tube socks at 70 percent off. Walmart’s actually not even going to close at all on Thanksgiving, allowing for uninterrupted tube sock-buying. Toys “R” Us is going to fling open its doors at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night. Tanger Outlets (we’ve got those in Lancaster) will open at 10, offering a $10 gift card to the first 200 nutjobs in line at opening; a $20 gift card to the first 100 loons in line at 2 a.m., and the chance to win a free 51-inch flatscreen TV if you register from 2 a.m. on, and are still there to collect your prize (if you win) at 6:05 a.m. And Macy’s (even ones attached to malls—like King of Prussia—that won’t be opening until hours later), Best Buy, Kohl’s, and Target will open at midnight and stay open through the night and the next day.

Who started this? Is there some big-box, sleepaway camp all these store execs attend during the summer to discuss how they’ll out-crazy last year’s Black Friday? Did one of them start it, and the others got word and jumped on the bandwagon, not wanting to be out-crazied? Is it an organized campaign to lure people away from the gluttony and sloth they so enjoy on this particular evening with their Seven Deadly Sin companion, greed?

This is indicative of the frenzied retail hysteria that plagues our society, but it’s more than that. Beyond the cultural implications of this ridiculousness, this will actually suck for a lot of people in really specific ways. First, there are the employees of these stores. Grateful though I’m sure they are to have a job, as any of us who have regular income are these days, some of them now have to make plans to slap on their uniforms while the rest of their families are having leisurely second helpings of pumpkin pie. Some of them, I imagine, might even have to skip their families’ Thanksgivings altogether. (One dude in Nebraska, who’s been a parking attendant at Target for three years, has actually collected more than 100,000 signatures on a petition he started to beg his employer not to do this. Go Nebraska Target dude!)

Yes, there are people who truly count on the legitimate deals Black Friday brings in order to get the most they possibly can out of their holiday shopping. Who work hard and save up in order to afford the electronics and home equipment and clothing that get deeply enough discounted on this day that they can bring them home. The stores taking part in these preposterous opening hours are basically giving these people an ultimatum: Line up in the cold with your bellies still full of turkey in order to get the best crack at this stuff, or dare to wait until the sun rises and risk missing it all. That is so unfair. That is taking advantage of them in a way that is even lower, now that it creeps into the holiday. When it was confined to Black Friday, at least, even if stores were behaving grossly, it was mostly expected.

Any practice that brings shame and angst to the beautiful art of shopping makes me very sad. But now, these places are messing with the meal most Americans look forward to all year long, and that, my friends, cannot be tolerated. These stores need to back off, and stay on their side of the sunrise.