We saw that last year, when retailers including Target (TGT) and Toys R Us jumped the gun on Black Friday by opening their doors early in the evening on Thanksgiving. Many of their employees weren't happy to have to cut short their Thanksgiving dinner, and one Target employee even launched a hugely popular petition asking her employer to push back the start time.
It's good that the retailer is at least asking for feedback from employees, but it's not clear how much choice they'll have in the matter. The poll was phrased in a way that implied that an 8 p.m. opening was already a done deal, so it stands to reason that some employees will be pressed into service if there aren't enough volunteers. Indeed, upon answering the question, employees were given the following message:
We will do our best to honor your preferences. Based on the needs of the business we may still need you to work an opening shift. Please be sure to review your schedule for any assigned shifts.
That's about what we expected. Last year Casey St. Clair, the Target employee behind the popular Change.org petition, told us that Thanksgiving was listed as a "blackout date" that employees couldn't request, and we're guessing that other retailers will have similar policies. And while this particular employee won't have to come in until 7:30 p.m., many Macy's employees will have set-up duties that require them to come in much earlier.
Maybe enough Macy's employees will say no to Thanksgiving shifts that the company will reverse course, but we're skeptical. Consumerist's tipster predicted that Thanksgiving shifts will become the norm in the near future, and we're inclined to agree -- at this point, enough retailers are opening on Thanksgiving that any store staying closed that night will be leaving money on the table. And unfortunately for retail employees, shopping on Thanksgiving does make sense for many shoppers: The early opening allows them to get to bed earlier than they would if doors didn't open until midnight, and there are actually excellent deals to be had on Thanksgiving.
So if you're one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans hoping to be hired as a seasonal retail employee, take heed: Working on Thanksgiving might be part of the package.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.