Most people fall into one of two camps around Christmastime: those who can't get enough of Black Friday deals, even skipping Thanksgiving meals to camp out in front of their favorite retailers, and those who think the whole thing is a stunning display of everything that's wrong with modern consumerism.
Like it or hate it, Black Friday seems like it's here to stay. That is unless more retailers like REI take a hard stance on whether or not they want to be party to it. The sporting goods retailer, which is actually a co-op of 5.5 million members, has decided there are things that are more important than money. That's why it will be paying all 12,000 employees on Black Friday, despite the fact that it'll be closed.
In a statement posted to a website put up for the event by the retailer, which also features a countdown that's ticking down the hours until the day it bucks the doorbuster trend, president and CEO Jerry Stritzke explained his reasoning:
"REI is closing on Black Friday.
You read that correctly. On November 27, we'll be closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside.
Here’s why we’re doing it.
For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.
We're a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us."
They're calling it #OptOutside, and they're inviting everyone to participate: by skipping the lines, grabbing a coat, heading outdoors and chronicling their adventures on social media with the hashtag.
And that is awesome.
The most awesome thing about this campaign isn't the company's decision to shut down or even the fact that it's urging everyone to connect to the outdoors. It is, after all, a company that sells something, and in a way, it's selling an image right now. That's not a bad thing, and if the retailer gets some loyal customers out of it, well, that's great.
What's most awesome about this is the fact that it's paying its employees. Too often, people who work in retail are compelled to choose between losing their job and giving up time with their family when their employers tell them "come in or else."
Even when working on Black Friday is optional, if you — like 26 percent of retail workers — live in or near total poverty, you aren't going to give up the workday just out of principle, no matter how much you'd rather be with your family or take a stand against this ugly employment practice. It's not about greed either — 89 percent of the retail workers living in poverty contribute 50 percent or more of their family's entire income, so what seems like a "choice" initially isn't actually much of one.
So kudos to REI for not just posturing about what it thinks is important, but for actually putting its money where its mouth is with its decision to #OptOutside. Hopefully more retailers will follow suit!
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