Black Friday creeps into Thursday

Associated Press Modified: November 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm •  Published: November 22, 2012
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For 11 people in a four-tent encampment outside a Best Buy store near Ann Arbor, Mich., a super deal on a 40-inch Toshiba LCD television is worth missing Thanksgiving dinner at home.

Jackie Berg, 26, of Ann Arbor, arrived first with her stepson and a friend Wednesday afternoon, seeking three of the televisions. On Black Friday, Best Buy is selling them for $179, $240 less than the normal price, so Berg would save more than $700.

It's her first time camping out for the specials, and she's not sure she will do it again. Relatives will bring her some holiday dinner, but she'll miss eating her dad's stuffing right as he cooks it.

"We'll miss the actual being there with family, but we'll have the rest of the weekend for that," she said.

But not everyone likes the idea of Turkey Day shopping. Some retailers that are opening on Thanksgiving face criticism from workers who complain that the holiday should be a time for everyone to spend with their family.

A New York-based union-backed group of retail workers called Retail Action Project is planning protests in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Thanksgiving in front of several stores, including AnnTaylor, Forever 21 and others that are opening at midnight on Black Friday and earlier.

"It shows that the companies are not valuing their workers. They're looking to their workers to squeeze out more profits," said Carrie Gleason, director of Retail Action Project.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has been one of the biggest targets of protests against holiday hours. The issue is part of a broader campaign against the company's treatment of workers that's being waged by a union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers. It's staging demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores on Black Friday.

Mary Pat Tifft, a Wal-Mart employee in Kenosha, Wis., who is a member of OUR Walmart, started an online petition on signon.org that has about 34,000 signatures.

"This Thanksgiving, while millions of families plan to spend quality time with their loved ones, Wal-Mart associates have been told we will be stocking shelves and preparing sales starting at 8 p.m.," she wrote on the site.

But retailers say they are giving shoppers what they want. Dave Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said that the discounter learned from shoppers that they want to start shopping right after Thanksgiving dinner. Then, they want to have time to go to bed before they wake up to head back out to the stores.

Still, Tovar said that Wal-Mart works to accommodate its workers' requests for different working hours. "We spent a lot of time talking to them, trying to figure out when would be the best time for our events," he said.

Kathee Tesija, Target's executive vice president of merchandising, said Target's 9 p.m. opening struck "a perfect balance" for its customers. When asked whether it's faced any criticism from Target employees, she noted that the chain also works with workers to accommodate their needs. But, ultimately the company serves the customer.

"We thought long and hard about when the right opening time would be," she said, adding that Target "wants to make sure we are competitive."

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Krisher contributed to this report from Toledo, Ohio and Ann Arbor, Mich.