By Emanuella Grinberg
(CNN) — Jamie Ordonez is one of the lucky retail employees who will enjoy Thanksgiving Day without having to rush to work. But a brother-in-law who works at Medieval Times isn’t as lucky.
The Lyndhurst, New Jersey, castle is open for a 5 p.m. show on Thanksgiving Day, which means Ordonez’s family is eating dinner around noon to accommodate his schedule. And, it’s not the only Thanksgiving Day joust on the calendar; shows are scheduled in all nine Medieval Times castles in North America, with most offering discounted tickets.
“He enjoys his job, and he knows working nights and weekends and some holidays is a part of it,” said Ordonez, a 30-year-old resident of Belleville, New Jersey. “But it affects his family, too, and it’s not fair to us, either.”
It’s the same sentiment behind a handful of petitions, Facebook groups and social media gripes about people being called in to work on Thanksgiving — not only in retail but in the service industry and entertainment.
Ordonez created a petition on Change.org asking Medieval Times to cancel its Thanksgiving and Christmas shows so employees can spend the holidays with their families.
“Your employees, from servers, to performers and management, come together five days a week as a team to bring a great show to your patrons. Do you not feel that your hard working employees deserve these holidays to spend with their families?” she said in the petition, which has earned nearly 2,500 signatures since launching in late October.
Medieval Times did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The petition is one of several on Change.org this year challenging what’s known as the “Black Friday creep” into one of the busiest shopping days of the year. While most of the petitions target retailers, Ordonez’s petition highlights the plight of nonretail workers who also work on Thanksgiving. Other petitions target malls and shopping centers on behalf of retail employees as well as maintenance and security workers who also have to report to work on holidays.
It’s no surprise why businesses keep opening early. The National Retail Foundation expects shoppers to spend $602.1 billion in November and December, a 3.9% increase from last year’s holiday shopping season.
But, just as the creep gets earlier each year, with Kmart announcing plans to open its doors at 6 a.m. and others opening later in the day, consumers began rallying earlier this year. You’ve probably seen the evidence on Facebook, with friends pledging to “Say No To Shopping on Thanksgiving” through badges on their walls and in profile pictures starting in October. The eponymous Facebook group responsible for the badges launched in mid-October, earning more than 40,000 likes in less than a month.
Their motivations tend to intersect around fighting “corporate greed” and “reclaiming Thanksgiving” for families. Posts on the page refer back to the “good old days” when stores were closed on Thanksgiving and holiday shopping sales didn’t start until after Thanksgiving.
It’s a cause that Jim Sullivan of Watertown, Massachusetts, feels passionately about even though his shopping options are limited thanks to Massachusetts blue laws that restrict business openings on holidays. What bugs him are the Christmas decorations and holiday sales that start well before Thanksgiving, overshadowing Thanksgiving.
“Retailers are doing an end run around Thanksgiving, extending Christmas back because that’s the mercantile holiday,” said Sullivan, a fan of the Say No To Shopping on Thanksgiving Facebook page. “They’ve found out that you really can’t sell much through Thanksgiving itself. The most you can sell is the bird.”
Sullivan says he is doing what little he can by pledging not to shop on Thanksgiving and encouraging others to do the same through his own Facebook group, Thanksgiving Comes First, which has more than 1,110 followers.
The goal isn’t to “bring big corporations to their knees,” he said wryly, but to postpone holiday shopping until after Thanksgiving.
“I’m not looking to do anything serious or harmful to the American economy, I’m just looking to scale it back,” he said.
Ordonez is also realistic about her goals. The Medieval Times shows will go on this Thanksgiving, and a show is still scheduled for Christmas Day.
“It’s not retail, it’s not an essential business,” she said. “Why can’t they have one day off?”
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