Walmart versus Thanksgiving

I normally do not address current news or political issues, but for a blog about common sense, I can’t help but discuss the meaning and unintended consequences of Walmart’s plan to start its Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving evening.

As a small business owner, I am just about as pro-capitalism as they come. I don’t believe that any business should be restricted by the government; however, I do believe that businesses should restrict themselves when it comes to honoring family values and their centuries-old traditions. Walmart’s employees, just as with all Americans, are hard and dedicated workers, and Walmart has done America a great service by providing affordable groceries and consumer goods to the masses. I do not begrudge Walmart its success, but at what point does the pursuit of profit become counterproductive? Furthermore, what right does Walmart have to change the face and meaning of one of our country’s most cherished and important holidays?

Thanksgiving is not just about family time and turkey. Thanksgiving is a reminder of the trials and struggles that the brave settlers of our great country faced. It is a day set aside for us all to never forget our humble beginnings and to give thanks to God for the little things that make life worth living. Walmart owes its success to the American dream and does itself no favors by closing its heart and opening its doors on the one day set aside for rest, family, and peaceful reflection.

My heart goes out to all of the employees of Walmart who are being called away from their families on Thanksgiving Day. But it is not just the Walmart employees who are being disrespected by Walmart: it is also the Walmart customer who will suffer loss. It is their Thanksgiving Day that will also be interrupted by the promise of unbeatable deals and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. A day set aside for being thankful for what we already have will be turned into a mad dash for the newest gadgets and trinkets.

The real PR nightmare for Walmart is not that they are requiring their employees to show up for work. The employees will be paid, and God knows we can all use the extra cash right now. The misstep is that Walmart has told its loyal customers that it does not care about their traditions. Walmart knows that people will show up; it knows that, in the short term, the bottom line will be increased but at what cost? Sadly, Walmart will not suffer at all, but a great American tradition will be rushed through so that thousands of consumers can leave their families and let their turkey go cold, all for a $5.99 Blu-ray or a $299 laptop that could have waited one day to be sold.

The real tragedy is not that Walmart is opening on Thanksgiving; it is that people will shove aside their loved ones to line up in the cold. Walmart is simply doing its job and making money. They know that our generation will quickly throw out tradition for a cheap deal and a quick thrill. Does this make it right? No, but who is really to blame: Walmart for opening its doors…or you for walking in?

Ultimately, Walmart has broken its trust with the American people. It has given them an ultimatum that many cannot refuse to ignore. We have a choice to make: will we give up honoring our ancestors, our families, and our traditions, or will we wait and pay $10 more on Friday or Saturday? For many, the Black Friday deals are the only way that families can afford to purchase gifts. The $10 difference will make or break their holiday season. They will have no choice but to forsake Thanksgiving Day in order to give their kids a better Christmas. Walmart may have made the right gamble in assuming that people will show up, but that does not justify the move.

Today’s companies must remember that though they have bills to pay and profits to make, they also have a duty to use common sense, to show respect, and to uphold the traditions of the land that have made them titans. Being a powerful mega-company brings with it a great responsibility and Walmart has abused its power and perhaps changed the face of Thanksgiving forever, as more companies follow suit in years to come.

As pro-capitalism as I am, I am first a family man, an American, and then a businessman. I can only hope that companies like Walmart realize the impact that they have on society and learn to tread a little lighter on our values and lifestyle. Common sense tells us that greater, long-term profits will come from those companies that respect their employees, customers, and country. Only time will tell of the full impact of this new trend, but I believe that long-term success will be difficult for any company that forsakes the values and traditions that built it.

For me, I will be with friends and family on Thanksgiving. Where will you be?