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The Boston Globe

Business

| Michelle Singletary

For many, Thanksgiving Day sales are a turkey of an idea

I’m going to make the call. Black Friday is now Black Thursday.

Last year, several major retailers said they were going to open on Thanksgiving Day. One called the decision historic. Depressing, I thought.

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Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, had traditionally been the time for kicking off the Christmas shopping season. Over the years, the day turned into predawn craziness. You’ve no doubt seen news stories of people lining up in the wee hours of Friday morning to get deals. Or you may have stood in the lines yourself.

But opening at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. wasn’t good enough. The Black Friday opening hour was pushed back even earlier — to midnight in some cases.

This year, Walmart will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. That’s two hours earlier than last year. Toys ‘R’ Us and Sears are opening at 8 p.m. Kmart is opening at 6 a.m. But I suppose to take some of the pressure off shoppers afraid they’ll miss out on a sale and workers who want to have dinner with their families, the retailer will close at 4 p.m. Kmart will reopen at 8 p.m. and stay open until 3 a.m., close again and reopen on Black Friday at 5 a.m.

In Massachusetts, however, retailers are not allowed to do business on the holiday.

“This agency has not issued a statewide permit to allow retail stores to be open or permit work on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day,” Patricia DeAngelis, general counsel for the state’s Department of Labor Standards, said recently.

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When responding to one survey, a small percentage of consumers said they would shop on Thanksgiving. Among Black Friday shoppers, 6 percent said they plan on starting their holiday shopping on the holiday, according to Offers.com.

This is a trend that won’t hold if retailers continue making it too tempting for penny pinchers to stay at home. One of the reasons people rushed to stores on Black Friday was because it used to be that the best deals were often available in limited quantities. This, too, is changing.

Walmart is guaranteeing customers that if they are inside the store and in line between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day they can purchase certain popular electronics at special low prices. Many customers and workers have complained about Thanksgiving Day shopping. Online petitions developed to discourage the trend. I have also tried to persuade people not to shop on Thanksgiving. I advocated for the workers who would have to leave their families to serve shoppers.

My advocacy was a lost cause. It’s pointless when our economy thrives on consumer spending. And some folks don’t mind working on Thanksgiving because they’re grateful to have a job and earn the extra pay.

Nonetheless, consumers have proved time after time that there are no boundaries for their addiction to shopping for sales. If the stores open, they will come. Because they come, the stores will continue to open.

I still think that Black Thursday turning into the new Black Friday is a turkey of an idea. But I’m resigned to the fact it’s a trend that is here to stay.

Michelle Singletary writes for the Washington Post. She can be reached at singletarym@washpost.com.

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