Sometimes I think that the Grinch had the right idea.

Overall, I love Christmas. I love getting together with family and friends, exchanging presents, and sharing holiday cheer.

Unfortunately, like everything else, there's also a downside to the season that everyone has experienced in one form or another. For me, my downside came about when I worked in the retail business. Because people have a tendency to spend more during this time of the year - mostly because of buying presents - Christmas is a "make or break" period for many retailers across the nation. As a result, the pressure becomes particularly intense for those working in the retail field, with corporate leaders putting the pressure on store managers, and managers in turn putting the pressure on employees, to "sell, sell, sell," in order to increase the profit margin.

One particularly painful event occurred several years ago when the regional manager of the retail chain I was working for suggested on Oct. 30 that we start playing Christmas carols in the store. The store manager, good little trooper that he was, complied and so even though it wasn't even Halloween yet, we had to start suffering through every innumerable Christmas carol that would continue unabated from opening to store closing until the first of the year.


Like I said, I love Christmas, and the music is a big part of the things I love about it. But when you hear that same music drone on and on and on for over two months, is it any wonder why the festivities became so tedious for me at the time.

In addition, as I said earlier, the pressure to make sales gains - always high at any time of the year - become extremely sharp during the holiday season. As a result, there were many Christmases I was just glad to see completed, due to being totally burned out from effort of trying to make the sales goals set for me by the corporation.

All that is in the past, of course. And I manage to live with the fact that many retailers will constantly be throwing Christmas in my face at their various establishments, in the hopes of separating me from even more of my hard-earned money.

However, there's one practice, recently introduced, that makes me shake my head sadly, and wonder where is it all going to end.

Most of you know about the concept of "Black Friday" - the day after Thanksgiving in which the holiday selling season officially kicks into high gear. Although some retailers have occasionally attempted to get around this, pushing Christmas specials and decorations even earlier, Black Friday has remained throughout the years as the day in which customers start making their holiday purchases in earnest. Many retailers often offer special "once-a-year" sales on Black Friday, in an attempt to increase store traffic even further.

Throughout the years, a trend has developed in which various retailers - particularly in large chains - have opened their doors earlier and earlier to the public, in the hopes of attracting customers and getting them to shop there before they go anywhere else. The logic of this is that these customers will be more inclined to spend their money there, as opposed to another establishment opening later in the day.

Many shoppers have responded enthusiastically to this practice, to the point where certain stores will open at 5 a.m. or even earlier on Friday, in the hopes of snagging even more holiday cash from people looking for a fantastic bargain.

But now, some folks in retail have come up with a new ploy. Why wait for Friday? If customers are so eager to take advantage of holiday sales in the wee hours of the morning, why not be open on Thanksgiving and start the holiday shopping run at that point. Those stores that do will get an even bigger jump on those that opt to remain closed until Friday.

But there's one small problem with such a practice. Namely, who is going to man those stores during the Thanksgiving holiday? You can bet the corporate bigwigs who order the stores open on Thanksgiving will be safe at home, enjoying the turkey and pumpkin pie with their families, while the lower employees will be the ones dragging themselves to the stores, setting up sales and waiting on customers, in an attempt to grab even more holiday cash.

Part of the problem of course rest with the shopping public itself - namely, us. In an attempt to get that fantastic, once-a-year holiday bargain, we've lost sight of the fact that someone must be in the store to sell us the items in question. By going to the stores who are open on Thanksgiving in the hopes of obtaining that fantastic bargain, we inadvertently support a system which requires that at least some of the store employees be cheated out of the Thanksgiving holiday.

So I suggest to all retailers - how about leaving the Black Friday opening limit at 5 a.m. on Friday. It's still pretty early, but it at least allows your employees the opportunity to enjoy an uninterrupted Thanksgiving holiday, along with the rest of the public.