A parking-lot attendant at a Target store in Omaha, Neb., is taking a stand.
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Anthony Hardwick, 29 years old, says starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving is just plain wrong.
Why should he and his co-workers have to come in at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving, just so the masses can do battle over door-buster deals? And why should shoppers have to shorten their holiday just to get in line for this annual carnival of conspicuous consumerism?
"Some of my fondest memories came from the Thanksgiving holiday, being around the dinner table with grandparents and my mom and dad," Hardwick says. "We're robbing people of that."
Until recently, a well-meaning employee like Hardwick might be told to shut up, get back to work and plan on wearing a smile come midnight. But the world is changing.
Hardwick discovered a website called Change.org, where he instantly launched a petition drive against Target Corp. (TGT) and its chief executive, Gregg Steinhafel. It's called "Push back the opening of Target retail stores on Black Friday to 5 a.m."
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"A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation," the petition reads. "All Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night's rest on Thanksgiving!"
Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said Hardwick isn't scheduled to work on Black Friday and does its best to work around the schedules of its employees. "By opening at midnight, we are making it easier than ever to deliver on our guests' wants and needs," she said.
Meanwhile, Hardwick's petition has tens of thousands of signatures piling up on it. It can't be good for Target when petitioners start associating the rage of our times with its brand:
- "Encouraging people to shop in the middle of the night is bizarre."
- "Corporations are treating their workforce like serfs and fomenting a toxic consumer culture."
- "I'm sick and tired of these attempts to brainwash us into thinking Christmas is about how much money we spend."
- "Don't become another Wal-Mart. I expect better from you."
The petition drive is on a website that has already scored its street cred. Change.org is where a 22-year-old college graduate named Molly Katchpole recently launched a petition drive against Bank of America Corp. (BAC) for raising its ATM fees. As the signatures mounted, Bank of America backed off the fees, and other banks quickly followed suit.
It's already to the point where some companies have notified Change.org of policy changes before petitions can get going, co-founder Ben Rattray says.
"They've seen the negative impact this can have on their brand, and they're more responsive," he says.
Rattray says the reaction to Hardwick's campaign is loud enough that Target won't be able to ignore it indefinitely.
"Even if Target doesn't change their policy 10 days from now, they're definitely going to be revisiting their policy for next year," he predicts.
Rattray, 31, served as student-body president of his high school and remembers being frustrated at how the school board made uninformed decisions without taking input from students. In 2007, he co-founded Change.org with a fellow Stanford University graduate, and its growth is simply exploding with America's rising discontentment with just about everything.
A half-million new members are signing up a month. The site now has 80 employees and is on track to take in $8 million in revenue this year, up from 20 employees and $2.5 million last year, Rattray says. Its revenue comes from organizations that use the site to launch their own campaigns.
Campaigns have revolved around global civil-rights issues, such as women in Saudi Arabia pushing for the right to drive automobiles. They've also revolved around the frivolous, including a petition demanding that "Sesame Street" force Bert and Ernie to get married.
Rattray takes pride in providing a megaphone for the voiceless.
"I'm just a regular working guy," Hardwick says. "I wake up and work."
Target is his second job. He goes to work there after working full-time at OfficeMax (OMX). He says he can afford to speak out while his co-workers, and even some store managers, feel the same way, but cannot.
He is not protesting capitalism or consumerism -- just a jaded approach to the holidays.
"We're kind of ingrained as human being to consume, and I'm not saying that's a bad impulse," he says. "I'm just saying, take a step back, spend some time with your family, and then at 5 a.m. you can beat down the doors and get all the televisions and Christmas ornaments that you want."
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at email@example.com or tellittoal.com)