DETROIT - Macy's will break a 155-year-old tradition when it opens its doors on Thanksgiving Day this year.
It's been a retail ripple effect with more and more retailers (Target, Kohl's, Kmart, Sears) deciding they will do business on the holiday.
Via Facebook, Ruth to the Rescue recently asked employees how they really felt about that trend. There were a few emails supportive of the retailers doing business, but many more were outraged. Some agreed to share their stories on TV and here on ClickOnDetroit.com.
"I feel caught between a rock and hard place because jobs are scare," said one Macy's employee who asked for his identity to be withheld. "It's very disappointing. We've got a young child at home and he's just starting to learn about the holidays."
Ruth to the Rescue also heard from a Starbucks employee, a teenager working at Gander Mountain, and her mother.
"So, this would be my first Thanksgiving without her at the table if she is due to work," said the mother of a newer retail employee. "We usually will snuggle up and watch a movie or something afterward and that's not going to happen."
This single mother asked for her identity to be shielded because she's also looking for a job, and might be applying to some retail companies. She says people who need work are forced into difficult decisions about working on the holidays.
"I think that's difficult too because you have to make that choice. You're choosing your job over your family, and the job is making you choose."
It's not just the major retailers who are open. A Starbucks employee tells Ruth to the Rescue her employer is open every day of the year, except for Christmas Day. She says the coffee chain has been expanding its Thanksgiving hours to service shoppers who are heading to the stores, which are also now open for extra hours.
"I feel almost disgusted, you know, with the way our society is going. It's more important to go shopping at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and here I am having to work," said this young mother of two children.
She also said she knows many employees feel the squeeze of needing to work, but wishing they could have one day off.
"I would literally get about 30 hours that week, and then I wouldn't get the time-and-a-half that they offer, which is big, when you can't pay your own bills," she added.
Retailers cite consumer demand, employee volunteers
Some retailers will tell you they're only opening because of consumer demand. A recent survey showed 33 million Americans will shop on the holiday, and we found shoppers who said they have some good reasons to head to the stores on the holiday.
"The main one is cheap prices. Hopefully, not as many people, so you get the prices of Black Friday, but not the crowds!" said one woman outside her office in downtown Detroit.
Another shopper said, "We're cooking at 5 o'clock in the morning. I'll be at that store at 3, because shopping starts at 5!"
Retailers have offered higher pay, bigger employee discounts, and Thanksgiving meals to workers who will be working the holiday. A Macy's spokesman says employees have responded positively to the holiday hours and many workers are interested in working as many shifts as possible.
The employee who spoke to us showed Ruth to the Rescue a flier he says he received at work. Taking Thanksgiving off is not an option that's listed on the piece of paper. A Macy's spokesman says employees were only required to work either Thursday or Friday, and the flier simply showed the shifts that are available.
Our employee says, "In fact, I've asked even for like Saturday or Sunday off and they've told me, 'Ain't gonna happen! Saturday, Sunday -- that whole weekend is blocked off.'"
Fighting to save Thanksgiving
Annie Zirkel is appalled by what she's seeing from big retailers and what it's doing to the larger idea of "Giving Thanks!"
"The irony of going out and shopping on a day where you're supposed to be focusing on noticing what you already have is just too much for me," Zirkel told Ruth to the Rescue.
Zirkel has written an entire book about the power of gratitude and she's started a Facebook page to save Thanksgiving.
"I just invited people to come and like it, and take a pledge that you will not shop on Thanksgiving," she said.
Zirkel has lobbied some retailers, but says creating a "Blue Law" against doing business on thanksgiving might be the only answer. She says it would level the playing field for retailers.
"This way everybody's safe. Nobody feels like somebody is going to be opening an hour before and steal their sales," she said.
Some workers angry with bosses
While there is no doubt there are retail employees who don't mind working the holiday, the people who shared their stories say they're angry over being forced to choose between extra money and time with their families.
"I was angry. I was thinking about up and quitting when we first found out, and I'm not the only one," said the Macy's employee.
"I think that awareness also needs to be brought to how much people are being paid to be there on those holidays, cause it's not very much," added the Starbucks employee.
There was also a recurring theme of anger with the CEOs making the decisions to open their stores on the holiday.
"I think if retailers were honestly thankful for their employees, they wouldn't have them work on the holidays," said the "Mama Bear," whose daughter will have to work part of the holiday at Gander Mountain.
"So, they're going to be home enjoying their nice Thanksgiving dinner in front of the fireplace, probably 50,000 people there, while the rest of us who need the money are going to be slaving away," added the Macy's employee.
Meanwhile, Annie Zirkel wonders what it says about the people who want others to work, so they can spend more time shopping.
"Don't shop because in puts other people in a place where they have to work for you, on this day, it's their day too!"
Here's a link to Zirkel's Save Thanksgiving Facebook page.
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