The loneliest drugstore in the world.

thAnother Thanksgiving and I’ve fulfilled my stated intention: to eat until I can’t walk. Four guests for dinner (including my niece and her boys) and I still had all I wanted of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, coleslaw, peas, rolls – all of it homemade and all of it irresistible.

Dessert was a tough choice between the pumpkin pie that I made and the pumpkin cheesecake my niece made. Since my doctor told me to reduce stress, I decided to have some of each. After all, they both have beta carotene.

The meal started at 1 p.m. My friend Linda B. left for work at 4:15 p.m., and my niece and the kids were gone an hour later. Now I’m sitting in front of a wonderful fire and unlikely to move far from it, especially since the temperature is dropping: It’s 11 and breezy now, predicted to drop to 2 degrees overnight; tomorrow’s high is predicted to be 8 degrees and the low will be minus 8. At least it isn’t Fairbanks.

So much for my idea of hitting select Gray Thursday deals a few miles from here. While I’m aware that some of the advertised sales aren’t really that great, there were a couple of items I wouldn’t have minded getting. Could be even more than a couple, since I haven’t gone through the ads yet.

A veritable ghost town

However, I did hit Walgreens this morning. Knowing that they’d be open on Thanksgiving, I went to Fat Wallet’s Black Friday tool and read the store ad, making a list of free-or-nearly-free items I wanted. When I left the house at 7:45 a.m. I wished I’d started earlier, figuring there would be a long line of other people who wanted free toothpaste, shampoo, sore throat meds, lip balm, toothbrushes and the like.

No one on the road in my neighborhood. Practically no one on the highway. Just two cars in the Walgreens lot, and apparently they belonged to employees. I sat in the Subaru listening to the overture from “HMS Pinafore” while I waited for it to be 8 a.m. The overture ended just as an employee opened the door and rescued three bundles of the fattest newspaper of the year.

That’s how I came to wander Walgreens all by myself, taking my pick of the goods. Well, except for the sore-throat meds, which weren’t available. I gave myself extra frugal points because I also used coupons and paid with a discounted gift card.

Ultimately I came away with several stocking-stuffers and a handful of items for the women’s shelter. Just for fun I drove past the nearby shopping area and it was a ghost town.

I expect that will change in a couple of hours because some retailers want it both ways: to pretend they’re giving their employees the holiday with their families but also to pull in some early sales by opening at 7 or 8 p.m. Were it not for the lingering food coma I might be out there myself.

I won’t add to the pious proclamations of those who scold that Thanksgiving is a family holiday and the retailers ought to be ashamed, ruining this sacred time with vulgar commerce. Christmas creep isn’t actually new: Responding to pleas from store owners  back in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November. This lasted only three years; Congress passed a law in December 1941 to change it back to the fourth Thursday.

Opting out, if you can

Besides, there’s a way around it: If you don’t want to shop on Thanksgiving, stay home. This works for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, too: If you don’t like it/them, opt out.

And if you work at a place that insists you show up? Well, sometimes employment kind of stinks. You’re expected to work weekends, or take the lobster shift, or toil on beautifully summer days that clearly were intended for beach-going. I spent my eighteenth summer at a glass factory working this schedule:

  • 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for five days, followed by one day off and
  • Going in at 3 p.m. the second day and working 3 to 11 p.m. for five days, then taking two days off and
  • Going in at 11 p.m. the third night and working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for five nights, then taking two days off and
  • Starting the whole thing once more

(That is, when I wasn’t working double shifts – which I took whenever they were offered, which was often, because I was saving money to go to college.)

I never really got used to sleeping when I was supposed to sleep, especially when working those doubles. Yep, it kind of stunk. But I knew that going in. Factory jobs are neither fun nor easy. Neither are most retail jobs. But the glass has to keep being made, and those $4 DVDs don’t sell themselves.

Perhaps retailers will realize they’re not making enough at the brick-and-mortar stores to justify Gray Thursday openings. Until then, be kind to the people ringing you up at Target and Office Max. Having to work on Thanksgiving probably wasn’t what they had in mind when they snapped those wishbones.

Readers: Did you shop on Thanksgiving? Did you work on Thanksgiving?

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  1. Kate Logan

    Remember what they say: “If you shop on Thanksgiving, you are part of the problem”.

    I don’t care what kind of “deal” you get. Shame on you.

    • Donna Freedman

      Afraid I haven’t heard that one before. Which problem, exactly? The supporting the economy problem? The saving money problem?

    • Last I heard it was a free country…well, almost free.

  2. We neither shopped nor worked on Thanksgiving. (Although DH had been stuck working some holidays in the past.) We didn’t shop either. We were thankful for time to spend with our extended family. 🙂

    • Donna Freedman

      I was grateful to have three extended family members here. Was also grateful to get my house back — just as they were no doubt glad to be back in their own home space, which is more comfortable and welcoming to kids.
      I never did go back out tonight. Just didn’t want to head from the warm living room out into 11-degrees-and-breezy weather. Right now it’s 5 degrees and I’m so happy for the fire.
      Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may the leftovers be ever in your favor.

  3. I did not work on Thanksgiving. I have never worked on Thanksgiving since the education industry is always closed. When I was young, no one even thought about retail being open, so there was no drama or decisions. I did not move the car from the driveway today for any reason.

  4. When I was in college, I worked for the phone company. Everybody worked on the Thanksgiving and Christmas. What some people forget is that alot of people need the money from the jobs. And some people don’t experience a warm family holiday and are glad for the excuse of work to get out of the house. And in some families, the early shopping start has become a family adventure and creates just as many memories as the turkey meal. ….. Judge not and you shall not be judged.

    • Thank you Jean. I am just a little bit tired of the self righteous view of holiday working. A whole lot of people have no Norman Rockwell dinner to go to and are enormously thankful for the overtime.

      And for the people who didn’t want to work? Well, as Donna says, being a grown up stinks sometimes.

      • If anyone is lonely on the holiday, there is no need to go shopping. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer. Deliver food to s shut-in. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Help a neighbor.
        And the only self-righteousness I hear is from the people who say “well, I HAD to work on Thanksgiving, so everyone else should suffer, too”. Give me a break, stay home, and do not ruin the one holiday for those who would choose not to work and want to spend one sacred day with their family.
        And for the last excuse, “A whole lot of people…..are enormously thankful for the overtime”, there are plenty of job opportunites for those who want to work holidays.

  5. I only hit CVS at a B&M store on Tday. However, I did do enough online shopping in the early am to get
    ALL the gifts I need for 4 grand child bdays between 3/31 and 4/15. All on BF sale. All w/FREE shipping.

    Like you I had BOTH cheesecake & pumpkin pie for desert. However, I did skip the mashed potatoes (did sweet). I ate ONLY 1 of the fabulus rolls (size of a pretzel nugget). I also ate BOTH reasonably low cal veggies.

  6. Worked 22 hours straight delivering newspapers. Started with the wednesday afternoon papers, then did the “sunday choice” that had to be out by Friday but was taking up too much room in my car to keep them until then, then moved on to the approximately 900 Thanksgiving day papers. The problem was exacerbated by the cheap bags my company insists on buying even for the large papers. Not enough tensile strength makes for big time bag splits and a lot of muttering under my breath as i chase down every single last insert that has escaped from the blow out. I came home at 11:30 am and went to bed. did not get to eat dinner nor spend any time with family until the ravens-steelers game. I have been doing this for 15 years and this was my 16th Thanksgiving delivering papers but this year was the absolute worst.

    • Donna Freedman

      Sounds fierce. Wish they had hazard pay for carriers, or at least better bags.

  7. There are many professions that require the employees to work on holidays. Police, firefighters, hospital staff all come to mind. I’m not sure why retail employees are so different. From what I’ve read, many of the stores offer holiday pay (time and a half or even double time)and ask for employees to volunteer to work that day, so it is a great opportunity for many to earn extra bucks to support those families. A simple solution is….if you don’t approve, don’t participate.

    • Donna Freedman

      Good point about people who have to work, no matter what. I think we’re all glad that firefighters et al. don’t take the day off.
      It’s my understanding that not all retail employees have a choice: If the boss schedules you, get your butt in here. A relative of mine who works at a housewares store had an insane schedule yesterday: Come in at 5 p.m. and work until 7 a.m. on Black Friday, since her store is open all night. Big yawns, especially since she’s almost 60 years old. But she did in fact need the extra cash.
      When I was a newspaper clerk at The Philadelphia Inquirer I was scheduled to answer phones at the city desk on Thanksgiving — which just perplexed me, since I was the only clerk with a baby, i.e., no one else had to worry about child care centers being closed. The saddest part was that I took calls from at least half a dozen elderly people who had no real reason to call — they were just lonely and wanted to talk to someone about the way Thanksgiving used to be.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

    • michelle G

      even with “time and a half” retail workers make far less than police, firefighters and hospital staff —and said professions have better (if they exist) benefits. I worked the gray Thursday/Black Friday for a major department retailer and paying the price—-despite regular hygiene/handwashing and updated booster shots I’m recuperating from the measles ( I’m 53) that I am pretty sure I got from a customer from out of state(we had a lot of these customers that day, visiting from elsewhere) on that evening/morning(I haven’t been anywhere else but my home and the employer, not even a grocery store.).I don’t qualify for health insurance until Jan 1—and then it will be Medicaid.

  8. This is one of my favorite articles from you, thank you. Very well stated all around.

  9. Carolina Cooper

    I am just now heading out to shop(noon on Friday). After reading about some of the violent confrontations that took place around the country on Thanksgiving, re: parking spots, places in line, etc. at various retailers, I think I made a smart choice!
    I have to note that you NEVER cease to amuse, inform and AMAZE me Donna. Today’s amazement: I haven’t heard the term “lobster shift” since back in the 1960s, when my ex worked that shift at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Is it a newspaper term? I have never heard it used elsewhere.

    • Donna Freedman

      That’s where I saw the term: on a paycheck stub from the Inky. According to various Internet sources, it can also appear in regard to a really early shift.

  10. I have a small retail store and am in a group location with other small locally owned independant businesses. We all close for Thanksgiving and have normal hours on Black Friday. Once a year we have a Midnight Madness/Party that every year has gotten bigger, it turns into a big block party and the beer/wine tent is fully stocked at the begining. So we have a lot of happy tipsy shoppers that help that day turn into a huge sales day 🙂

  11. lostAnnfound

    I did not work yesterday, except in the kitchen cooking for family. I did go to Walgreens this morning (Friday) about 8:30 a.m. and got a lot of BOGO or free after rebates/coupons plus $13.00 in Walgreens cash to use in the next two weeks. And there was only about 6-8 people in the store while I was there.

    • Donna Freedman

      I’m going back to Walgreens today, on my way to review a show, because there’s a “25% off any regularly priced item” coupon in the ad. I’m going to use it for Sweet’n Low (or the generic version) for my iced tea. I’ll be interested to see whether the shelves have been ravaged since 8 a.m. or whether it remained a normal shopping day.

  12. Kuddos to Micki the “paper guy/gal”. I was a carrier for 10 years. The Thanksgiving day paper was the biggest paper of the day …and the most profitable. My last year in the biz “stuffed” and delivered 1400…by myself. Will say …when I finished I was exhausted but I did experience a great sense of accomplishment. Thank goodness our management team was smart and got us good bags and then later sold advertisements on the delivery bags to pay for some “stellar” bags. That is a tough job and the carriers don’t get the credit or respect that they should….


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