I’m writing this on Thanksgiving morning about 8:30 am. My initial prep work is done for an early 1:30 Thanksgiving dinner. I have Glen Campbell shuffling between Coldplay, Pink and Ben Folds Five on my MacBook. I’m waiting for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade to come on in a few minutes. I’m not big into floats … but “can’t miss my man, Cee Lo.” So I thought it would be time to put down some thoughts.
Over the last eight months I’ve been on this relentless rant to “buy Main Street, trash Wall Street” campaign. This pursuit has only intensified with the advent of the Occupy Movement. In fact, I’m wearing my brand new “#occupy” shirt that just rolled in from CafePress yesterday.
Now I wanted to take a break today – not get bent out of shape about the corporate community wrecking crews, or the “Insane Clown Posse” that masquerades as our government. I just wanted to cook and eat … and maybe read some of my Steve Jobs book. But to no avail!
From the time I got up … at 5:30 am, for the last four hours, I’ve been bombarded relentlessly by Black Friday ads, whether on TV or the radio or the newspaper. And what makes it worse, is that these corporate Philistines are all opening at midnight tonight – if not earlier. “They’ve gobbled up Thanksgiving.”
What if you’re a lowly clerk or stock boy at Wal-Mart or Target … to hell with kicking back after a big dinner with family or friends. To hell with watching the Lady Gaga special on TV (and yes I’m watching it!). And to hell with Thanksgiving. It’s more important for these “corporate citizens” (tongue in cheek) to haul in their extra profits, only to ship them oversees or line the pockets of C-suite executives with excess bonuses. What happened to their employees? And what happened to their families – who may only get to see their loved ones a couple of times a year. Apparently they don’t count.
This brings me to the point of this rambling. To who do these mega-companies owe their allegiance? Their “lock step” response is always the same. “We make our decisions for the benefit of our stockholders … after all they technically own the company. The problem is – decisions made for the benefit of the stockholder are often to the detriment of the other parties involved … or otherwise known, stakeholders.
Stakeholders don’t necessarily own anything, but they still have a vested interest in these companies. These people are its employees and the residents of the community who ponied up extra taxes to attract the box stores there in the first place. They are the homeowners that have to endure the extra traffic caused by the Wal-Marts, the Targets, the Home Depots and the Lowes. And as much as anyone, it’s the local entrepreneurs who have had their businesses decimated by the mega-corporate predatory practices. If you want proof check out this: “Wal-Mart ramps up ballot threats to speed new California stores.“
Now I understand that Black Friday makes or breaks a lot of companies’ year. And I’m not trying to deprive them of that. All I’m saying is when is enough, enough. Why not just open up all day Thanksgiving? In fact Target employees assembled nearly 200,000 petition signatures in protest of their extended hours. Imagine the great publicity and goodwill that would have been generate had Target backed down and given Thanksgiving back to their employees … but NO! I wish these companies looked past just their shareholders – to their stakeholders. In fact in 2010 the entire Fortune 500 roster paid less in federal taxes than the net worth of Apple ($320 billion). You can’t tell me that that’s taking into account anyone other than their owners.
The frustration behind the birth of Occupy and their hatred of Wall Street stems a lot from what I described in the above paragraphs. Maybe the backlash wouldn’t be so harsh if these firms would realize their blatant selfishness. And all of this is happening on the day where we are supposed to be celebrating giving. If corporate America really wanted to be citizens … why don’t they practice giving like the rest of us – at least for just this weekend. And I don’t want hear about some lame charitable program that amounts to nothing more than one percent of their net income. Why can’t they contribute fifty percent like Tom’s Shoes or like 50 cent with his new energy drink line (well least something more significant than maybe one percent). The amount they take from the communities they operate in is much, much more than that!
This Thanksgiving, I’m going I’m think about my fellow Americans who will have their holiday cut short, and those Americans who are hanging on for dear life with their “Main Street” local businesses.
It’s those people who deserve … and need, our thoughts and thanks!
I can be reached on Twitter at @clayforsberg