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#PRants: Thanksgiving Thursday is Now the New Black
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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It's most miserable, overhyped and commercialized ... wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, big-box retailers forget about the calendar and determine that "Black Friday" can't get here soon enough. To wit, shoppers need to get accustomed to the blossoming and heinous "Thanksgiving Thursday." Unfortunately, so do the miserly paid hourly employees. Aside from these perceived minions having to sacrifice time with their families to prepare for the menacing campers in serpentine lines outside each of these havens of discount shopping, how come there is not any negative PR from any of this? 

Whelp, now there is. Maybe. At least, it's a shot. 

As Yuletide decor hits stores before Halloween, discounting happens before Labor Day and people begin talking about what little Johnny wants from Santa before St. Patrick's Day, full-court press marketing has begun. And now, so is the resistance. According to a story from Atlantic Wire, the activist group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) is planning on the largest "Walmart mobilization" of disgruntled, severly underpaid workers in quite some time. 

"We're calling on Walmart to allow us better wages, affordable wages, sufficient healthcare, and to stop silencing workers who are speaking out such as myself," Carlton Smith, who worked for Walmart for 17 years before being fired in May. "We shouldn't be fired for standing up and speaking out."

While that's admirable and such, it won't matter.

Numerous reports state that others are joining Walmart in its holiday slaughtering endeavors, such as Best Buy, Toys 'R' Us, Target, Kohl's, and even Macy's. While, IMHO, it's despicable to open on a holiday for the sake of a few million bucks, it's America and you can't blame them for keeping up with the Waltons and opening in the wee-small hours of Thanksgiving morning (in some instances). My question is, why aren't more people speaking out for the people who have no voice in this situation? Talk about a holiday buzzkill. I would hate Christmas if I worked as an hourly employee there, if for nothing, telling my family "Sorry to cut out of this Thanksgiving feast early but there are some frumpy housewives sitting outside my job that need my attention."

A survey from the National Retail Federation showed the biggest demographic group to shop on Thanksgiving last year, when fewer stores were open in the evening, was millennials — consumers between ages 18 and 36.

"Some of the openings that started last year — the midnight openings — and then this year with what seems to be commonplace openings at 8 in the evening on Thursday, it's a little bit of a game changer because I think it has the potential to attract a different kind of shopper," said Dick Seesel of the Mequon firm Retailing in Focus.

"Game changer"?! Seriously? People can shop all weekend long but the quest to beat the Waltons to higher holiday sales should be a PR issue. Only it's not, because the media loves the rush, too. If there are editors and news directors who are planning on the skeleton crews covering the lines, there are going to be others who will take the same issue I have — but have their own people cover that side of the issue on friggin' Thanksgiving night. And why not? Another recent NRF survey asked people whether they plan to shop either in stores or online Thanksgiving Day. Of those who plan to shop over the whole weekend — Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — almost a fourth (23.5 percent or 33 million shoppers) said they will shop on Thanksgiving.

Ah, well. I tried, people. Only to note that "Thanksgiving Thursday" is also known as "Black Thursday," because it is becoming the death of the holidays. And what better color to wear when you are in mourning?

There's my soapbox and that's a #PRant (PR rant). 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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