Greedy retailers spoil Thanksgiving as sales tax dwindles

I refuse to shop for Christmas gifts on Thanksgiving.

Retailers keep pushing up their hours on the Thanksgiving weekend. Black Friday has become Black Thursday evening.

And there is a lot of “baiting and switching” going on with some retailers.

We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s house. My wife bought an over-priced daily paper to get the ads. Why do stores want us to pay to read their ads in a liberal newspaper when most of us read those same ads online for free?

Anyway, I thumbed through the ads and made a list of Black Friday sales items that I might want to buy for myself or as a Christmas gift.

Several retailers had the same items listed as “doorbuster” on Black Friday.

I woke up early and braved the cold rain to go to a sporting goods store at 5 a.m. I was the first customer there and I went to the department that had an item I wanted. It was a hard-to-find item at a really good sales price.

I asked a clerk where the item was.

“Oh, we sold out of all of those on Thursday night,” he said.

“But this item was a Black Friday doorbuster,” I said.

“Yeah, but we sold all of those last night,” he said.

Even though it was pouring rain, there was no raincheck for this item.

At store No. 2, they had a certain brand of jeans on sale but they only had small sizes. Same problem with the same jeans at stores No. 2 and 3. Store No. 3 had a great sale on men’s shirts but again, very limited sizes on a disheveled display counter.

And for the first time in years, store after store was virtually empty at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. It seems all the shoppers who really don’t hold Thanksgiving in high regard bought all the Black Friday specials on Thursday night.

Academy Sports and Lowe’s were exceptions. Academy Sports had some great sales items and they were still in stock at 6 a.m. (a handful were exhausted). I like Academy Sports because they had plenty of cashiers. Lowe’s had a great sale on poinsettias and they had tons of them in really good shape.

The bad part of shifting Black Friday to Thanksgiving is that it ruins the holiday for retail workers. They work really hard with bad hours and low pay (and sometimes gripy customers). They should get a couple of days of year – at least Thanksgiving and Christmas – when their stores are closed and they can be at home with their families.

But greed trumps family life in retail America. Next year, the stores will probably open at noon on Thanksgiving.

City officials are griping about Tulsans shopping online instead of at local stores. The city’s budget hinges on sales tax revenue to grow government and they don’t always collect sales tax on Internet sales.

The local retailers don’t like it either.

Shopping habits have shifted dramatically. When my wife asks my grown kids what they want for Christmas, they tell her to check their “wish lists” on Amazon.com. God help us if we buy something not on that list.

My kids buy me birthday gifts, Father’s Day gifts and Christmas gifts online and have them shipped to my front door. This is very convenient for them. The online stores will even wrap gifts.

In the good old days, newspapers would go all out to support local retailers. Papers depended on the print advertisements from those stores. Now, retailers spend most or all of their budgets on their websites, preprints, direct mail and radio/TV. So, it’s hard to gin up much sympathy for a local retailer who is losing sales to the Internet but fails to support the local media – especially the conservative voices like the Tulsa Beacon and Community Spirit magazine.

It’s every man for himself in marketing these days.

Frankly, I wouldn’t want to run an ad from a store that opens at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. That should be family time for their employees.

I get e-mails everyday from stores and restaurants who want us to write stories about some publicity stunt or donation to charity to get free coverage in the newspaper. When I suggest they buy an ad, they refer me to an out-of-state marketing firm that has no intention of spending money. They just want what they call “earned media.”

Stores who want Tulsans to spend more money locally and stop using the Internet may not be in business someday. Politicians who want to grow government are going to have a hard time selling that idea, too.