May We Pause At Least Long Enough to Consider This Season from the Perspective of the People on the Other Side of the Counter, Too
By Ken K. Gourdin
As a counterpoint to Ms. Collins (see my Dec. 2 entry), please take off your “customer/consumer” hat and pause long enough to consider this season from the vantage point of those who work in retail. City Weekly’s Rachel Piper invites us to do just that in a November 19 column. See here, last accessed December 5: http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/the-real-war-on-christmas/Content?oid=2607339.
While the column is centered on the annual mad post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping rush known as “Black Friday” (of all of the colors rightly associated with this colorful season, black surely shouldn’t be one of them) Piper points out that, for retail workers, the stress of the Holiday season begins well before Thanksgiving and continues through about Christmas Eve.
For my part, when I sought a cold remedy at one of my local drug stores on Thanksgiving evening, I told the clerk I was sorry she had to work on Thanksgiving, but (in the spirit of that day), I thanked her profusely for being there.
As Ms. Collins pointed out (and as Piper reiterates) this season should be about more than a headlong rush to acquire more “stuff” – whether for ourselves or for someone else. Even many of the poorest in this country still have more resources than someone who would be considered solidly middle class in many third-world countries.
While perhaps there’s a bit of overstatement here, Piper describes the plight of one of her coworkers this way: “In another corner of the break room, a co-worker bursts into tears after talking to her husband for five minutes, the only contact the two of them will have until January because of their totally opposite work schedules.”
Piper says that she now has forsaken her former career in retail for a more “normal” holiday life, but then points out:
Except, it’s not normal. In this world of a 24-hour demand for stuff, it’s not just nurses and firefighters and law enforcement who work Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s pretty much anyone who doesn’t work at a comfortable job with desk chairs and health benefits and holiday bonuses—jobs that are becoming harder to obtain.
In her penultimate paragraph, she continues:
People talk about the War on Christmas, but the problem isn’t a retail worker saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” after a 30-second transaction during which they earned one-fifteenth of a cent. It’s the fact that this adulation of giant stores and giant deals is making us lose our humanity and regard for our fellow man. Because, yeah, that person you just bought that scarf from is a person who probably likes turkey and napping just as much as you and I do.
The difficulties of working in retail this time of year notwithstanding, it’s a pity Ms. Piper didn’t have a boss like Target’s Scott Simms. Mr. Simms’ stirring speech to Target employees was reported on by The Deseret News (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865617074/The-most-inspiring-Black-Friday-speech-youve-ever-heard.html?pg=all, last accessed December 9. 2014) and video of the speech is available here (http://www.abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/watch-target-employees-amazing-black-friday-pep-talk/story?id=27376157, last accessed December 9, 2014),
In any event, Ms. Piper’s reminder to not forget the humanity of the person on the other side of the counter is a timely, useful one. In the spirit of the season, thank you, Ms. Piper.