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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Authors, Workers, & Shoppers Need A True Holiday



When is the line to be drawn when it comes to distinguishing between family time and work? For authors -- and even many at publishing houses -- the line is nearly invisible.

It seems we work 24/7, in part because of technology. You’re never really away from the office when work is as portable as your cell phone, tablet, laptop, or device of choice. Clients and colleagues ask, sometimes even demand, that we communicate during our “off” hours. We then begin to expect it of ourselves. Then it gets to the point that work is always on our minds, perhaps because it can invade our private space so easily, so often.

Now the physical world is encroaching on our lives, both as workers and consumers. For instance, the true meaning of a holiday has become lost on America.

Take Columbus Day. It’s a federal holiday, but not everyone seems to follow suit. It’s not treated the same as Labor Day or Memorial Day. I was off on the day America acknowledges its “discovery,” but I know of many who were toiling in their offices while their kids were home from school.

Maybe you say “no big deal, it’s a bullshit holiday anyway. America was here far longer than before Columbus came in and led to the near extinction of the natives.” But it’s a holiday nevertheless.

Look at Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Same thing. Some have it off, some don’t. Why? Honoring a civil rights leader who died trying to make America better is not reason enough to take off?

Now let’s get to the big one: Thanksgiving Day.

Macy’s just announced that, for the first time in 155 years, it’ll open its doors on the sacred national holiday, starting at 8pm. This causes three problems.

First, it means its lowly-paid workers can’t feel free to enjoy a day that should be uncluttered from work schedules. You may think, “Oh. They have the day off and they have to only start to work at night, not bad.”

Wrong.

It means they can’t travel to see far away family. It likely means getting to work early so that you can be ready for an 8 pm door-opening. Depending on their commute, may have to leave their family before the sun sets. Outrageous.

Second, the consumer becomes a victim, even if it rejoices in the prospect of participating in the newest contact sport: holiday stomping.

Consumers have lives too. They shouldn’t think about shopping anymore than they do about work on a day where we pause to be thankful for who and what is in our lives. Why must people rush out of family gatherings to go buy a discounted pair of underwear?

In both cases, economics are at play. Stores now need to compete with each other for the pre-Black Friday dollar. Their workers, hardup for holiday cash themselves, come to work, whether forced to or not. Consumers, especially the budget-conscious, have to get in on these early deals in order to stretch their holiday gift fund and  to meet everyone’s needs.

The last thing that stinks about Macy’s caving into the growing trend of turning Turkey Day into just another time to shop is that such a move puts pressure on competitors to follow suit. The escalation will continue. As more stores follow suit, others will push the envelope and open earlier. Soon stores will just simply not close, staying open at 3am so someone can get a bargain.

The truth is, it’s a losing deal all around.

Stores end up spending more money and resources to stay open earlier or later, but overall, there’s only so much money to go around. Stores can only take so much of a limited pie. They may look to siphon business from one another, but collectively, many stores don’t win. Only a few do. The workers and consumers may feel like they won, earning extra money or getting more deals, but I feel like they lose when you look at how work and shopping consumes their time and minds.

This Thanksgiving Day I’ll be thankful that I’m not working (I won’t check my email), not shopping (even if stores are open), and that I’m able to enjoy turkey, football, and family on a day of thanks and appreciation. 

What will you be doing that day?

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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