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Our View: Pass the turkey - and let's go shopping!

We all know the scenario. You're driving to work in the morning, minding your own business and traveling the posted speed limit. A car comes up behind you and begins impatiently riding your rear bumper. Every little while he edges out over the center line to see if there's traffic coming from the opposite direction, hoping to slip past you at the first opportunity. Nudge, nudge, nudge. You begin to grow cross and unsettled yourself because of his ceaseless insistence. You're just about to pull over to the side of the road and give him his way when a gap in the traffic opens up and he sails past you at a high rate of speed -- faster than necessary but wanting to "show" you just how slow you were traveling -- and soon he disappears out of sight. 

A few minutes pass and up ahead you spot a traffic light just turning red. And as you pull up and come to stop, who do you suppose is stopped right ahead of you but the guy who passed you!

It seems that all the driver's pent-up road rage and impatience got him was one place ahead of you at the stop light.

That's a little like the relentless rush of certain stores to be the first to open their doors for the Christmas shopping season this year. In recent days we've heard of an ever-increasing number of businesses who are not only opening earlier and earlier for the traditional "Black Friday" shopping event on the day after Thanksgiving, but earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Day itself. One major retailer announced it would be opening at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, so two more announced they would be opening at 8 p.m., and yet another moved theirs up to 6 p.m. At least one has decided to get the jump on the whole darn lot of them and simply stay open all day long on Thanksgiving. 

Then, one of the retailers that had announced it would open at 10 p.m. decided to email its Black Friday specials to customers a week and a half early to start generating an appropriate buzz before the others could even get their ads out on the streets.

Just this week, one of the stores that had decided to open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day announced it had decided to stay open all night and keep going right through Black Friday itself. 

Who knows what will come next as the businesses vie for the consumer's top dollar? Oh sure, they've drawn criticism for luring families away from their Thanksgiving dinners in order to be the first in line for a discounted flat screen TV that they're probably buying for themselves and not a gift at all. And yes, they've invoked the ire of those who feel it's unfair to require staff to work on what has traditionally been considered a family holiday. But at least one of those businesses is justifying its actions by saying if they open early enough on Thanksgiving evening, families will be able to make a trip to the mall into a holiday tradition -- a little like carving the family turkey or serving up the pumpkin pie. 

But in the end, what will all of this commercial one-upsmanship gain those businesses? Will folks actually buy all that much more during those few additional hours than they would have anyway during the holiday season? Or will they end up like the guy who had to fly headlong down the highway, passing everyone in sight, only to find himself stopped at the same red light as everyone he passed?

~ Wendy Johnson