Thanksgiving is the second most important holiday in the United States after Christmas.
It is also one of the few days that most businesses – including retailers – remain closed.
While the following day is not an official holiday, all schools are closed, and most companies give their employees the day off, too, creating a rare four day weekend.
Traditionally, stores had big sales on the day after Thanksgiving, kicking off the Christmas shopping season. Because most people didn't have to work or go to school, they headed downtown or to the malls to take advantage of the day off – and the big discounts.
The Friday following Thanksgiving, which occurs on the fourth Thursday of November, has come to be known as Black Friday because this is the day that many retailers start turning a profit, putting their accounts into the black for the first time.
Break With Tradition
Eager to get a head start this year, Toys 'R' U will open most stores on Thanksgiving night at 9 pm. Walmart will follow, opening most outlets at 10 pm. Macy's, Target, Best Buy, and Old Navy have all announced plans to open most of their units at 12 midnight.
For employees that work at these stores, that will mean having to rush to work following a day of family reunions, feasting and – in some cases – drinking. Then they will have to stay up into the wee hours waiting on customers.
For shoppers wanting to take advantage of the best deals, that might mean having to arrive in the afternoon – or even in the morning – on Thanksgiving Day in order to be the first in line.
Resentful salespeople and tired shoppers – not a happy combination.
At least two states have got it right. Maine and Massachusetts have prohibited retail employees from working on Thanksgiving. I'm wondering if a store opens at 12.01 am Friday morning – will that count?