Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Discouraging shopping on Thanksgiving

A group of lawmakers in Connecticut want to discourage shopping on Thanksgiving Day.  Link to story here.

In recent years, retailers in Connecticut and across the country have lengthened "Black Friday" bargain shopping by opening on Thanksgiving, usually in the evening.
But some Democrats in the General Assembly fear the consumer holiday is starting to overshadow the traditional one, and hope to pass a law next year that would create disincentives for stores to stay open the last Thursday in November.
"Thanksgiving is the one holiday a year that all Americans share," said state Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, who introduced a bill this year that would have required retailers to pay workers triple overtime for Thanksgiving Day hours. "When you're forced to come into work and leave your family on that one day of the year, it really strikes at basic family values."

To preface, I am not going to shop on Thanksgiving.  But just because my family celebrates Thanksgiving with friends and doesn't wish to shop, it doesn't mean every family has to celebrate the way we do.  I also don't mind when the public discourages stores from opening on Thanksgiving. There is a great way to do this - by not shopping at a store that is open on Thanksgiving.  Public pressure is OK.  But when lawmakers interfere with the free-market, that is problematic.

The lawmakers might say that these restrictions on freedoms are for workers, but that is a weak argument.  There are thousands of employers in the US, and if workers wish to not work on Thanksgiving, they could work at a firm that won't need them on Thanksgiving.  A counter-argument from the naive would say that those jobs (that don't require Thanksgiving work) might pay less.  RIGHT!  If you are in a sector of the economy that could use workers on Thanksgiving - jobs that don't require work on Thanksgiving are likely more-appealing and pay less, while jobs that require work on Thanksgiving are less-appealing and pay more.  These differences are called compensating wage differentials.  But by restricting the opportunities, you punish the workers who wish to make more money by not giving them an opportunity to work.

This push by Connecticut lawmakers appears like a penalty on businesses.  Because of the competitiveness of the retail market, however, those penalties would be pushed onto consumers.  This would manifest itself in  one of two ways: fewer deals for consumers or stores closing when consumers wish they'd be open. Lawmakers should not choose when consumers should shop by penalizing firms who are open on a particular day.

If lawmakers tried to impose this on a Christian holiday, like Christmas or Easter, I can only imagine the uproar from the very people who are pushing for these ill-conceived regulations.

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