I'm sure Target Corp. knew a few people were not likely to be happy about its decision to open on midnight Black Friday.
But I doubt the company expected this much blow back. A online petition started by a Target employee in Omaha, Nebraska to protest the move has now collected 175,000 signatures. And Change.org said Seth Coleman, a local Target employee, will deliver those signatures to CEO Gregg Steinhafel at Target's corporate headquarters on Monday.
"We haven’t heard from change.org that they plan to deliver a petition," Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said in an e-mail. "We respect our team members’ right to express their opinions."
The petition won't change a thing. Target's great Black Friday machine is already in motion and nothing short of an alien invasion can stop it. But the petition will attract a lot of attention and continue to make Target look like the Ebenezer Scrooge of Thanksgiving.
My problem isn't necessarily the midnight openings. We knew this was going to happen sooner or later. When you open stores at 6 a.m. one year and then 4 a..m. one year, logic dictates midnight would be just around the corner.
No, my main beef is how retailers publicly justify their decisions.
"People want to shop through the night," a Macy's executive was recently quoted.
"Our customers told us they would rather stay up late to shop than get up early, so we're going to hold special events on Thanksgiving and Black Friday," Wal-Mart chief merchandising officer for U.S. stores Duncan Mac Naughton said in a statement.
“We know our customers like to get an early start on their Black Friday shopping, so we’re offering more savings than ever and providing even more hours to save by opening our stores at 9pm on Thanksgiving night,” Greg Ahearn, Chief Marketing Officer, Toys“R”Us, U.S, said in a statement.
That's right folks. Retailers are doing this for YOU. You spoke, they listened. Opening at midnight or earlier was not a calculated move to capture a bigger slice of an ever shrinking sales pie. Retailers had no choice but to give customers what they want.
Call me cynical but I have a hard time believing customers were flooding the phone lines of retailers, asking, no DEMANDING, they open at midnight.
What annoys me about this spin is that retailers are abdicating any skin in the game. Instead, they're passing responsibility (or is it blame?) to the shopper.
In a way, they're right. Target would not open at midnight unless they knew people would show up. But let's not confuse the order of things. Retailers do something, customers respond. If customers like, retailers will keep doing it or do more of it.
If customers really drove things, then retailers should dispense with door busters and simply give away laptops, iPads, and flat screens at no charge. Heck, throw in a free ride home as well.
Not all retailers are following the pack. Sears, the country's largest department store chain, will stick to its 4 a.m. opening though its Kmart chain will retain its 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day opening.
And at least Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn was more straightforward about the retailer's decision.
“We recently had to make a difficult decision,” Dunn recently told a conference. “We were going to be open at a much more civilized hour. At Best Buy we need to be where our customers are. The market has moved to a midnight hour.”
“I feel terrible because it will change some Thanksgiving plans for our employees,” said Dunn, who will also be at the stores.
Dunn's contrition is both refreshing and, unfortunately, besides the point. He may feel bad but the hoards of retailers rushing to midnight and earlier clearly overruled his empathy.