‘Gray Thursday’ not a day off for all

November 28, 2013 • Local News

Susie and Dominic Lopez, of Rio Rancho, right, Patsy Hernandez, of Roswell, seated left, and Hope Leyva, of Albuquerque, get a head start on their Black Friday shopping, occupying the front of the line at Target, Thursday evening. (Mark Wilson Photo)

Walmart, Target, Big Lots, Kmart, OfficeMax, Hastings, Sears, JCPenney, Bealls, IHOP, Golden Corral, Cattleman’s Steak House — What do these places have in common?

They, among others, were all open Thanksgiving Day in Roswell.

Many stores and restaurants have stayed open on Thanksgiving for years. But with the advent of what national media has dubbed “Gray Thursday,” a greater number of retail locations opened their doors or expanded hours the last Thursday of November, with some staying open overnight.

Chain stores used the extra day of business to kick off the holiday season by pushing up sales, a great convenience for shoppers seeking Turkey Day materials at the last minute and lower prices on goods.

The bottom line for employees of these locations was a little less convenient: They had to [auth] work during what for many is family time.

Big Lots store manager Grayham Sim, who for more than 10 years has worked at various big box stores, said his family is accustomed to his absence on Thanksgiving.

“It’s a retail thing,” he said.

He said Big Lots locations have stayed open on the holiday since the chain was founded, and that he’s noticed Thanksgiving hours expand every year.

This year, the store was open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and offered special “Thursday Deals.” Sim said that of the store’s 24 employees, 20 were scheduled to work yesterday.

Kmart opened even earlier with “morning doorbusters” at 6 a.m. The store stayed open through last night and will close at midnight today.

Store manager David Lucero said 80 to 100 employees were scheduled to work shifts during the round-the-clock schedule.

While retail and restaurant staff in Roswell missed a shift of family fun for work, of five big box stores and two restaurants in town that surveyed, the Record confirmed that six offer special perks to employees who stuck it out on the day of thanks.

These perks included shorter shifts, warm Thanksgiving meals on site and extra pay.

OfficeMax was open for Thanksgiving for the first time this year, from 8 p.m. Thursday until 2 a.m. today. Assistant manager Joann Cardenas said working on the holiday was voluntary and the seven employees who elected to do so received 50 percent more pay per hour.

Target offered employees who worked shifts on Thanksgiving time-and-a-half plus a dollar, according to Monica Roper, head of human relations for the Roswell location. She said time-and-a-half pay was extended to Black Friday shifts as well, and that employees could request the holiday period off if they wished.

Target opened at 8 p.m. last night and will close at 11 p.m. tonight, having stayed open overnight.

The Record solicited feedback from people who had experience working on Thanksgiving to find out how they felt about clocking in when others are on vacation.

Chenet Nichol, of Roswell, wrote in a Facebook message that she was required by a previous employer to work on Thanksgiving and “my feelings were it sucked.”

She said Thanksgiving is a day for family and “that’s where most people need to be during holidays.” Nichol, who is now a stay-at-home mom, declined to share the name of her former employer.

Others who responded mostly expressed positive feelings.

A Kmart employee, who requested anonymity due to not clearing the interview with store management, commented that retail staff are not alone in working holidays.

Military, law enforcement and emergency services personnel all work holidays.

She said that Kmart endeavored to make holiday shifts more palatable by giving staff special discounts and offering a warm Thanksgiving meal to staff and their families during break.

Plus, she noted, she still has time to see her family when not working.

Taking those factors into account, the employee said she didn’t mind working a nine-hour shift with an hour-long meal break Thursday.

“It’s not that bad,” she said.

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