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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4358/step-away-from-that-turkey/

Step away from that turkey!

November 20, 2005 by

The Washington Post reports that the government of Massachusetts is threatening the grocery chain Whole Foods with criminal penalties for the unspeakable crime of…considering opening on Thanksgiving. I’m familiar with blue laws, but until I read this I didn’t realize that some states’ blue laws apply to holidays. As an example of business using government to quash competition, it doesn’t get any better than this. The attention on Whole Foods is a result of a complaint by a competing grocery store chain. Of course, they only have workers’ welfare in mind, claiming the laws “protect workers from pressure to give up their holidays” (my mother is a hospital nurse who works Thanksgivings and Christmases all the time. Can someone do something about all those sick people who deprive her of her “right” not to work holidays?) The best quote, though, is from the competitor’s complaint letter to the state: “Besides disadvantaging competitors, a Whole Foods opening would harm consumers, due to lack of choice in the marketplace for consumers to shop and compare prices for the best deal.” So, residents of Massachusetts have two options on Thanksgiving: one choice or no choices. Apparently, according to the owner of this competing grocery store, having no choices is better than having just one choice. I hereby nominate this guy to run the FDA.


EF November 20, 2005 at 9:25 pm

I for one am a satisfied Whole Foods customer in Massachusetts. Their service and quality are consistently better than Shaw’s, and they’re growing rapidly because of it.

I spend roughly equal amounts of money at both stores. But this story makes me more likely to avoid Shaw’s in the future.

Idaho_Spud November 20, 2005 at 10:50 pm

I’m a power-plant shift worker and ex-military guy who has worked plenty of high holidays out of *necessity*. I’m less than impressed with Whole Foods’ attitude about staying open for business at their discretion.

I eschew shopping on high holidays out of principle. Do these companies ask for employees to volunteer, or do they simply schedule them to show up?

The moron who floated the idea of staying open on the holiday ought to be the one running the cash register. He can talk to his children on the phone during breaks.

Aakash November 20, 2005 at 10:57 pm

This is crazy! (and somewhat funny…)

Can they do something about graduate students who have to “work” on papers and projects during Thanksgiving ‘Break’?

Tim Swanson November 20, 2005 at 11:41 pm

You can always outsource the papers to a domicile that doesn’t celebrate turkey day…

Paul Edwards November 21, 2005 at 12:24 am

“Besides disadvantaging competitors, a Whole Foods opening would harm consumers, due to lack of choice in the marketplace for consumers to shop and compare prices for the best deal.”

Oh brother.

Roy W. Wright November 21, 2005 at 12:52 am

The moron who floated the idea of staying open on the holiday ought to be the one running the cash register.

If it’s really such a bad idea — I think not — he or she will probably suffer for it.

Idaho_Spud November 21, 2005 at 1:16 am

“If it’s really such a bad idea — I think not — he or she will probably suffer for it.”

I doubt it. The people who propose these things are seldom the ones affected directly by them.

You get a different take on life as a shift worker.

For example when you come in on your days off for a mandatory all-hands safety meeting. How come managment never schedules the safety meeting on a Saturday? Because that’s *their* day off, and God forbid they give that up.

For a shift worker, Saturday is the same as any other day. But not for management – their days off are sacred :)

That’s what I’m talking about. Let the dude who suggested this let it affect his *real* life, not some theoretical consequence down the road.

PR November 21, 2005 at 8:33 am

Idaho_Spud, my real life experience differs from yours.

When I held various McJobs, many of my co-workers would specifically request to work holidays if the business was open. They wanted the extra hours. Laws like the one being discussed would have hurt them.

Even recently when I was employed as a contractor, holidays were more of a nuisance than anything because I didn’t get paid for them. I had projects I could have worked on even with no one else there, but that wasn’t an option.

Idaho_Spud November 21, 2005 at 8:50 am

Just a real-world observation that the General who thinks a bayonet charge into the Maxim guns is a great idea never has to participate.

Ditto the clever MBA who thinks keeping the store open on T-Giving and Christmas.

Mark Larson November 21, 2005 at 9:13 am

Whether it’s a good idea or a bayonet charge, the principle is the same: the choice should be the owner’s. I find it rather embarrassing that we still have these kinds of laws.

Francisco Torres November 21, 2005 at 9:28 am

I’ve been debating some anti-Walmart wackos in another forum, and their arguments are about the same as Whole Food’s competition: that the company “harms” the consumers by giving them choices (of course they never put it LIKE that, but that IS their argument.)

The other argument, that the company is being unfair by “making” the employees work during holidays is silly. The monetary compensation alone more than makes it for the missed “turkey” day weekend. The workers do not “have” to do anything – they can always quit if they do not agree. The main complaint came from the competition, not the workers, which makes me think they find the arrangement, at least, tolerable.

William Ott November 21, 2005 at 10:17 am

The only voice that matters is the one not heard, that being the consumer. Consumers voice their opinions with purchases not words. If the consumers want the store opened on a holiday then they will shop there at that time. If not then the owner will have a significant incentive to close the store on that day.

In other words respect consumer preference and let the competitors strive to satisfy that and the only party that matters, the consumers, will be better off.

Curt Howland November 21, 2005 at 10:38 am

Idaho, you are speaking out your . Obviously you have never worked in a business open on holidays, but you sure are willing to force people not to work. That is called hypocrisy.

When discussing who will be working, and it is indeed discussed not commanded, those without familial obligations, or who otherwise desire the money rather than the time off, will step up and ask to work.

You are welcome to show up and tell them they’re not allowed because you don’t want them to have that choice. Go ahead, stand up for your opinion. You will learn first hand what the vast majority of bureaucrats never learn: They don’t like you telling them what they may or may not do.

Randall McElroy November 21, 2005 at 4:51 pm

This is classic government nonsense. Amazing.

Alan Gifford November 21, 2005 at 7:19 pm

Idaho Spud, I’m sure the people who run that Whole Foods store, and certainly the person who owns the company, have worked more than their share of holidays trying to get that company to where it is. And they probably stressed a lot more and actually used their abilities to a much more productive end than anyone working the cash register. And BTW, this is coming from someone who works a cash register.

In the words of Randal Graves from the movie Clerks, “Jesus, you overcompensate for having what’s basically a monkey’s job. You push f***ing buttons. Anybody can just waltz in here and do our jobs.” And that last sentence holds the key: anybody can just waltz in and push buttons on a register. That is why you work holidays. Because you’re working at a level of productivity where you don’t really have any leverage. You’re not indispensable.

Furthermore, if holidays are that important to you, then you have the FREEDOM to take a walk, use what abilities you have, to get a job that won’t require you to work on holidays. In the end, no one is being forced to work holidays, and no one is forcing your company to keep you employed if you choose not to come in when you’re scheduled, either. Deal with it.

Idaho_Spud November 21, 2005 at 8:37 pm

On some of these points, I guess that we’ll have to agree to disagree then. I’ll agree that the *law* forbidding a store to remain open on a holiday is ridiculous, anti-competitive, and ought to be challenged. For the record, I do *not* support any such law.

“Deal with it” is what people say when they’ve run out of rational arguments. My point is that the fellow who suggests that *other* people work on the holidays (to improve *his* performance bonus?) is no better than someone telling the terrorists to “Bring it on!”, from the safety of his bullet proof office, thousands of miles away, while several F-16s provide air cover.

Sorry gang, but I don’t worship at the altar of “the guy in charge is the smartest one in the room”. I disagree that these people ended up running the show because they’re the best qualified person for the job (see the example above).

I said nothing about forcing people not to work – you are putting words in my mouth. If people want to *volunteer* for what isn’t an *essential* service (police, fire, EMT, utilities), that’s fine and wonderful. Let them it up.

It’s very telling, the arrogant thinking that people who work for a living are less worthy of having Thanksgiving (or Christmas) off than the well-connected kid who *miraculously* ended up in the boardroom. Such contempt for the working class is palpable – and unwarranted.

Half of these management guys got where they are by picking the right parents or sucking till they turned blue (or both). A rare handful get where they are on raw talent – and those are generally the more

As for the customers, I’ll agree that nobody speaks for them – at least not right here. They vote with their wallets, and I completely agree with Mr. Ott on this point.

If consumers shop at your store on a holiday and it pays the overtime wages for your staff, and you net a little income – great!

I also agree that the owners call the shots, and that their employees *certainly* have a choice of whom to work for and in what industry. With luck, his best employees will vote with their feet – and the whiz kid in the boardroom will end up with the quality of staff and business results that he worked so hard for and deserves :)

Idaho_Spud November 21, 2005 at 8:45 pm


I meant to add that the self-made successful businessmen (like Sam Walton) tend to have more empathy for their employees than your average ivy-leage type. Funny, that.

averros November 21, 2005 at 9:27 pm

Whole Foods is my favourite grocery. The first convenient place in the neighbourhood (open till 10pm!) which sells edible food. And when it opened the quality of produce and other foodstuffs in the local Safeways suddenly and markedly improved, heh. Competition at work, I guess.

Call me euro-snob or whatever, but most of the stuff average unionized US chain groceries sell I wouldn’t consider edible, leave alone tasty. Fortunately, the things are getting better – I hope the ascendance of high-quality grocery stores like Whole Foods will allow more Americans to learn to discriminate in favour of healthy and tasty food, and will drive the dreary socialist-style factory produced el cheapo chemical crap from the store shelves.

tdl November 22, 2005 at 11:00 am

It is good to see you are not an advocate of coercion, however I think some of your criticsms are misplaced. First of all, if you have taken the time to read the history of Whole Foods you would know that management personnel are also the founders and shareholders. Many of them still work the stores that they founded (and later became part of WFMI) over 25 years ago. Secondly, being a “clever MBA”, I take exception to your criticsm there as well. Most MBA’s are not well connected ivy leaguers. My experience with MBA’s is that of hard working individuals who are making huge investments of time and money to better themselves. That being said, I will grant that there are many well connected, ivy leaguers who find life a bit easier, however, businesses exist on innovation & profitability. Ivy leaguers who only know how to coast by on contacts will only fail in the end because they are unable to innovate and adapt.


Alan Gifford November 22, 2005 at 3:00 pm

“Deal with it” is what *I* say to people whose expectations are not in sync with reality, particularly when there are actions they could take to rectify the situtation.

So it appears that your argument has been whittled down to merely an expression of displeasure that some people schedule others to work on a holiday and not themselves. Okay.

Ed Coburn February 3, 2008 at 4:29 pm

The National Shiftwork Information Center takes no position, neither promoting nor decrying the 24/7 economy. Our goal is to provide information that will help shiftworkers and managers of 24/7 operations maintain the best possible alertness, performance, health, safety, and quality of life.

I want to suggest the following recent post to our website:

Why managers in 24/7 need to pay attention to the special needs of shiftworkers

Ed Coburn
Executive Director
National Shiftwork Information Center

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