T he seasonal rush is once again upon us. I was standing in line for a newspaper when I overheard the two men behind me discussing Black Friday, or more significantly, their pastime on Black Friday of rising early, not so they could shop for bargains, but so they could watch the chaos from a safe distance.
Perhaps you are aware of it, or perhaps not, but the time space this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas is at its optimum. November having begun on a Thursday, we therefore have the earliest possible Thanksgiving. For those of us who prefer our Christmas music after the Macy's Parade, who stubbornly refuse to raise our (in my case considerable) outdoor light displays until the turkey and sweet potatoes are leftovers, this is good news indeed.
This also provides an extra Sunday between Thanksgiving and Advent, a fact which is important to churches which are marked by the liturgical seasons. I'm always grateful for that, when I count my Thanksgiving blessings, because it means we don't have to decorate the chancel and sanctuary on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a time of unpredictable response.
For me this year, Black Friday was Convenient Wednesday. With an entire day off school, while most people were blitzing the grocery stores, I was arranging for my beloved's MDGs . (That means Most Desired Gifts; I have decided to invent my own texting language and then feign astonishment when nobody knows what I am talking about.)
Which, I suppose, leads up to an ethical issue that has bugged me for the past several years — it never existed until then. "Black Friday Shopping Kicks Off After Thanksgiving Dinner" (Headline,Yahoo News service.)
JC Penney provided me with a predictable and manageable part time job during seminary, particularly raising my hours during holiday seasons.
Yes, Black Friday was Black Friday even in the 1980's, and sporting goods and hardware, which that retail chain still carried at the time, were very busy the day after Thanksgiving. I was always thankful for the crowds; the people were usually in a good mood and the busyness made time go by quicker.
Nobody ever intruded on our Thanksgiving. Cops, nurses, firemen, and other necessary caregivers had to work on holidays. No big box, or small box, store forced its employees to work when they should have time with their families and/or friends.
I laud and applaud the "Starmart" employees who were considering going on strike by simply calling off on Black Friday. I wrestled in high school and college, and there's one overriding cardinal rule-know your opponent's weakness. Lascivious greed is the weakness of superstores; "Big box" stores will be hurting, if they lose Black Friday.
Unlike the place where I sold sporting goods and hardware, nobody in these stores gets commission added to their salary, which was always an incentive to both know your product and be very courteous. (Maybe I shouldn't make that as a blanket statement; let's say nobody that I have spoken with gets commission.)
There is, of course, an ethical context and mandate that you, as an employee, should do as you're told so long as it's not illegal or immoral. There is also the reality that a store losing profit hurts, to some extent, each person who works there. But there's a time and a need, at some point, to send a message. Perhaps that time and place is when the employee's rights become insignificant and profit becomes the false deity.
Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis Christian High School. He can be contacted at: