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Shopping won't take a holiday

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Wither Black Friday, welcome Brown Thursday.

If you're planning an extended sit-down meal with family and friends on Thanksgiving, consider yourself charmingly quaint and considerably behind the times.

No longer is Thanksgiving a day to relax while you stuff yourself. It's now a day to stress while you stuff your shopping cart.

Starting times for the annual holiday spending frenzy known as Black Friday grew progressively earlier in recent years until retailers finally came to this realization: The only way to begin the bacchanal any earlier was to push it back to Thursday.

So they did.

So many stores will be open that some media outlets have coined the term “Black Thursday” as the apparent eventual replacement for the soon-to-be passé “Thanksgiving.”

The pilgrims probably would be perturbed over that. But who cares about them? They never had to wait for Wal-Mart to open at 4 a.m. so they could attempt to grab one of the three 60-inch Vizio TVs in stock and on sale for the jaw-dropping doorbuster price of just $688.

How pervasive will Thanksgiving shopping options be?

A cursory examination of various retailers' opening times reveals that shoppers pretty much can avoid their families entirely if they choose. At the very least, they can be out of the house during those several tense hours when Uncle Ted is at his most drunkenly obnoxious before falling asleep in the downstairs game room.

Purists can ignore the day's new retail reality, but they do so at the peril of missing out on the best bargains. For Thanksgiving traditionalists, difficult choices await even in the early morning:

• At 6 a.m., do I put the turkey in the oven or elbow other Kmart shoppers out of the way in my quest to get a pair of those half-off Sony headphones?

• At 9 a.m., do I turn on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or race off to Gander Mountain for those discounted 9mm semi-automatic pistols that will make great stocking stuffers for the kids?

A broader question that shoppers eventually will have to address is how early is too early when it comes to Christmas shopping? Culturally, we appear on the verge of sacrificing one of our most significant holidays on the altar of consumerism.

The argument can be made that most people will long have digested their bird and the holiday will be winding down by the time Office Depot opens its doors at 8 p.m. That's certainly true, but the fact that people will be purchasing office supplies at that hour begs perhaps the most significant question regarding Brown Thursday.

Who really needs to buy Post-it notes on Thanksgiving?

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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