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Black Friday Backlash: Retailers Take Heat From Employees Over Thanksgiving Hours

Meg Handley

Black Friday is a supposed to be a windfall shopping extravaganza that gets the nation's retailers in the black. But the only color employees are seeing is red after Target announced their stores would be open on Thanksgiving to give consumers a head start on the holiday shopping frenzy.

Target confirmed Monday it will open its doors at 9 p.m., following in the footsteps of other mega-stores such as Wal-Mart. In response, one California Target employee has drawn up a petition on Change.org asking the company to "take the high road and save Thanksgiving."

"Thanksgiving is the one day we get to spend with people we know," Casey St. Clair of Corona, Calif., wrote in her petition, which now boasts more than 186,000 supporters. "I currently work two jobs, substitute teach and work Target at nights and weekends, so having Thanksgiving off really does give me that one day to relax and visit family I otherwise have no time to see."

More than 60 additional petitions have been created on the site calling on retailers to keep stores closed and employees at home with their families this Thanksgiving holiday.

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The petitions are somewhat of a reprise from action taken in November 2011 when more than 200,000 people joined Target employee Anthony Hardwick's petition urging the retailer to open on Black Friday instead of Thanksgiving. Target planned open its doors at midnight last year, which required employees to report to stores by 11 p.m.

When contacted for comment, Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder told U.S. News by E-mail that the store's opening times were "carefully evaluated with our guests, team and the business in mind," adding that employees are paid time-and-a-half for working on national holidays. Snyder added that only one-third of the company's employees are scheduled to work on Thanksgiving and that some employees even volunteered to pick up the extra hours.

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Target isn't the only retailer feeling the heat from employees who aren't so jolly about having to snap out of their turkey coma to shepherd holiday shopping crowds. Wal-Mart will kick off its holiday sales season even earlier at 8 p.m., offering exclusive deals for die-hard shoppers.

But while retailers are trying to lock down holiday shoppers' dollars as early as they can, their move to lengthen hours might very well backfire.

"A critical part of the shopping experience is customer service," says Sheri Petras, CEO of consumer insight firm CFI Group. "If the associate doesn't want to be there and wishes he were eating his second round of turkey, the customer experience suffers."

Meg Handley is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at mhandley@usnews.com and follow her on Twitter at @mmhandley.

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