Does the U.S. Need to Regulate Black Friday? – Thoughts?

23 Nov

By Drew Hendricks for Huff Post- Denver

Does the U.S. Need to Regulate Black Friday?

Posted: 11/21/2012 11:08 pm

It’s almost upon us again — that annual orgy of consumerism called Black Friday. The drive-through coffee kiosks that grow thick on the roadsides around the Puget Sound have signs in their windows: “Open 24 Hours on Black Friday.” In the middle of the night, my phone beeps continually as advertising e-mails stream into my inbox, keeping me up-to-date on all the sales planned by all the stores in whose loyalty programs I participate. TV advertising, which was so recently dominated by political rhetoric, is now full of sales pitches.

The day after we give thanks for all we have, we run out and get as much more as we can while it’s all on sale.

But not everybody’s into the holiday spirit. This year Walmart employees are planning to walk out in protest of Black Friday. Other protestors have gone social, objecting to the gradual expansion of holiday shopping past the midnight barrier and into Thanksgiving itself. All of which begs the question — should Black Friday be regulated?

From an economic standpoint, the simple answer is “no.” The American economy is still essentially capitalistic; businesses need to have the liberty to compete for customers, and as long as shoppers are willing to forgo pumpkin pie to get a whack at their Christmas lists a little earlier, it stands to reason that retailers will — and should be able to — expand Christmas shopping hours.

But what about the workers who are expected to be there in the stores to help those customers when the rest of the population is enjoying a holiday? What about the cost to those workers’ families when a parent is always gone during holidays? What about the social effect of those chronic absences? Holidays are, after all, cultural unifiers; our collective celebrations are part of what define us as a society. The more children who grow up missing those celebrations, the less unified we are.

Perhaps the fact that many retailers black out vacation time during Black Friday is a question worth scrutinizing from a regulatory standpoint. Perhaps there would be sense in a rule forbidding employers from making an employee work on both Thanksgiving and the religious holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or whatever) his or her family celebrates at the end of the year.

There could actually be advantages to regulating work patterns during Black Friday. First, if fewer people are working, more people will be shopping. Second, the planning required to manage an under-staffed Black Friday retail environment would naturally encourage retailers to incorporate technologies that automate the retail experience. That would encourage capital investment and the development of those technologies. Third, work regulations would encourage more online competition, potentially reducing the number of shoppers in the stores — and all the conflicts that go along with overpopulated aisles.

Love it or hate it, Black Friday is here. It isn’t going to shrink; it’s only going to get bigger. Any question about how to manage that natural and inherent expansion has to focus on making the experience better for everybody.


Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


6 responses to “Does the U.S. Need to Regulate Black Friday? – Thoughts?

  1. countrygirl895

    November 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    US regulation on Black Friday affairs would be nearly impossible. Businesses have gotten so large and powerful that their influence is often greater than any individual fighting against them. Black Friday has become a piece of American culture that elicits excitement in shoppers everywhere. But this article brings up a point that is over looked by anyone who has never had to work a holiday. The shopping is great, I have gone out every year that I can remember, but it has only been recently that I’ve begun to understand the effects this “holiday” has on families. Those forced to begin working while their families are still feasting are missing out on precious opportunities. A regulation or cut down needs to occur or more people will be forced to spend less time with loved ones and more time waiting on persistent customers who are out earlier and earlier each year.

  2. bananas320

    November 26, 2012 at 1:51 am

    The government regulates everything else, why wouldnt they want to regulate Black Friday? The whole idea of people complaining or society complaining about people having to work on Black Friday or Thanksgiving blows my mind, when so many Americans are jobless. I mean, no one likes working on a holiday, but on a holiday about thankfulness, I am thankful to have a job to go to on thanksgiving in this day and age. On an almost contradictory note, i believe that we should be less materialistic, give Black Friday less attention, more focus on the true meaning of the holidays, ect ect. But I do not believe it is my right, to force that opinion on anyone. Likewise, it is not the governments right, to tell us when we can and cannot shop or work.

  3. tex2524

    November 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    The governement may feel the need to hinder the overwhelming chaos that black friday is creating each and every year. But as the comment above stated, is it possible to conatin this mass disruption and chaos? Yes, the sales are great. The prices are excellent and the oppurtunity is way too enticing to consumers all over the world, but at what point is it just too much? These oppurtunities turn people into absolute maniacs. It’s sad to see. I feel terrible for the people that are unfortunately forced to work this event. Yes having a job in this day in age is certainly something to be thankful for, but is it really too much to ask to give these people a lilttle time to spend with their families instead of having to deal with complete lunatics and overwhelmingly large masses of people in one store? These businesses are already powerful enough. I believe one good day of sales isn’t worth the toll it takes on the businesses employees and their families. And as a consumer, the hectic scene taking part at each store isn’t worth it either.

  4. traveler012

    December 5, 2012 at 4:32 am

    My feeling is that Black Friday is made out to be so bad, and it is not. Government should not regulate Black Friday for any reason. It is an experience. It’s a way for stores to get the earnings up and get monet circulating in this country that seems to be falling apart at the seams because of no money. Mass chaos is not always the case and there is no reason to treat it as such. When the government tries to get involved and control everything it sends us until mental chaos. Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. Let folks have their fun and get good deals. No need to get all crazy on people. I work retail, and yes I have worked a few Black Fridays in my day. It is a blast! We have an absolute ball with all the crazy people! it is stressful but again, it’s an experience and it’s a good time! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

  5. baconftwlolz

    December 14, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Well this comment may be a tad late but I dont think that think that means the discussion needs to end. Personally I think trying to control Black Friday is a farce. If it ever happened there would certainly be some feedback from the public and no doubt companies would contest any legislation. And also if it comes down to the “wholesomeness” of thanksgiving being at stake well then that is simply up to the family, as it should be. If people wanna ditch the dinner table to buy a new xbox so be it see if I care. Why should it be anyone else’s business what someone decides to do on a holiday? Black Friday is a boon for most families who need Christmas gifts that otherwise wouldn’t be so quick to buy them.

  6. sony112

    December 18, 2012 at 4:47 am

    The United States government has no control over Black Friday and it does not negatively effect our country in the slightest. As previous comments stated the United States uses a commercial economy which needs holidays and competition like this to balance and contribute to itself. If the government where to intervene this would only drag public’s attention away from the holiday and negatively effect the state of our economy. Black Friday does not stand alone as a commercial holiday, but acts as the starting move of a month and a half of commercial and religious based spending which all contribute to this cause. As a supporter of what this great nation stands for, I believe such holidays are not such a monster as some radicals view them but instead a big chunk of the american culture. Not all people think the same as myself and thus I feel it is only fair to include my opposition’s opinion, which is that these holidays use the American people. My response to that is that the people of the United States are perfectly capable of choosing to not participate in such events. Both businesses and the United States government profit from this time of the year so I ask ; Why on earth would you want to limit the potential of consumerism in such a successful example?


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