Over coffee this morning I skimmed the Washington Post which carried an article about shops open for Thanksgiving opening with the comment that Thanksgiving Day used to be off limits. Stores closed, credit cards stayed inside wallets, and Americans spent the day reflecting on the joys of family, friends and football before surrendering to the smorgasbord of shopping known as Black Friday.
Now, it seems that lots of stores are open (and obviously online shopping is available). Out of curiosity I ran a route that took me through some shopping areas to see if the article held true in my neighborhood. Well there was a mixed bag of open and closed places. The two most popular restaurants were closed, but the pharmacy was open, as were several coffee shops, but not all of them. Some supermarkets were open but the one opposite me was closed. What was I found intriguing was that of the closed places some had notices informing customers that they were closed "In honor of Thanksgiving Day" but others were simply closed without explanation, although one could make an assumption that it was because of the holiday.
What I would like to have seen is some explanation of how the stores made the decision to open or stay closed. Was it a command and control edict from 'top management', or had employees been allowed to vote? For those opening how was the staffing decided – by lottery, by volunteering, by incentives like double pay, or by threats of job loss? Was the decision made on a purely profit basis (I'm assuming yes on this!) or on a more altruistic serving the community basis – people living alone, or with no family, might like to be able to drink a cup of coffee in a social setting.
Nowhere I passed had any information on the method of making the decision. (I guess I could ask on Twitter and someone might respond). I wonder about this because I spent much of last week discussing with a client group how 'decision making processes' can be designed into an organization, and what the connection is between the organization design and its culture. So in wondering how stores made the decision on whether to open or close on Thanksgiving was the connected thought on how they came to that decision and what it said about their culture. Any input to this musing would be welcome.
Back to rituals (yesterday's post) I'm also wondering how long the ritual of "Black Friday" shopping will hold up. The Washington Post article suggests that it is already under siege – another indicator that rituals change as cultures do (or vice versa). Just to confuse the matter further in my mind when I first heard the words "Black Friday" in the US I immediately thought of "Black Friday" in Northern Ireland – the July 21 1972 bombing (but then discovered that I had renamed "Bloody Friday" as "Black Friday" in my own mind). But the connection took me back into the loop of who makes decisions in organizations (and how they get made), and on what kind of moral principles – an again what this says about the culture of the organization.