Midnight openings on Black Friday: Is Target 'destroying' Thanksgiving?

The big-box retailer outrages its employees by telling them to show up on Thanksgiving night so stores can open the second Black Friday begins

Bargain hunters outside a Virginia Target last year: Target stores are planning to push Black Friday openings to midnight, potentially forcing employees to cut their Thanksgiving dinners shor
(Image credit: JIM LO SCALZO/epa/Corbis)

As the holiday shopping season creeps ever earlier, some Target employees say their bosses have finally gone too far. The popular discount chain plans to open its doors to Black Friday shoppers at midnight on Thanksgiving, meaning that workers will have to report to work at 11 p.m. Thanksgiving night to get ready for the crowds. Is Black Friday madness "destroying" Thanksgiving? Here, a brief guide:

Why are Target employees so upset?

In the past, Target has opened early Friday morning to attract holiday bargain hunters, meaning employees scheduled to work on one of the biggest shopping days of the year could enjoy all of Thanksgiving Day with their families. "With the midnight opening, employees like myself will have to leave for work right in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner," says Anthony Hardwick, who works at a Target in Omaha. "We don't mind hard work, but cutting into our holidays is a step too far."

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And employees are fighting back?

They sure are. Hardwick has launched a petition at Change.org, asking Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel to push back the stores' opening time to 5 a.m. on Black Friday. As of Tuesday, more than 87,000 people had signed, far exceeding Hardwick's original goal of 50,000. "With that many signatures, it's obvious that these aren't only Target employees signing the petition," says Ken Wheaton at Ad Age. That's true, says Hardwick. "If Target doesn't reverse its decision and allow associates to spend Thanksgiving holidays with their family, they might suffer from a fast-growing consumer backlash."

Could this really hurt Target?

Some shoppers say they're as mad as the Target employees to see Black Friday creeping into Thanksgiving. Other giant retail chains, including Macy's, Best Buy, and Kohl's, have also moved their opening times to midnight. Walmart is actually opening at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving itself. Some longtime Black Friday shoppers say they might skip this year in protest. "We really don’t want to wait in line and miss Thanksgiving," once-dedicated Black Friday shopper Jill Paffrath tells The New York Times.

Then why do it?

Big-box retailers know that in these hard economic times, consumers are more bargain hungry than ever. A National Retail Federation survey found that 62 percent of consumers expect the economic climate to limit their holiday purchases, and most shoppers say they expect discounts. When Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn learned his competitors had moved their openings to midnight, matching them "became an operating imperative for us," he tells the Times. "I feel terrible." But not all retailers are so apologetic. "We're trying to stay ahead of the curve," a Michigan Target manager tells Consumerist. "I don't like the fact I have to come in on Thanksgiving, but when you work in retail, it's the nature of the beast."

Sources: Ad Age, Change.org, Christian Post, Consumerist, Huff. Post, NY Times

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