As the early Thanksgiving shopping bandwagon becomes more crowded with companies such as Walmart announcing they will open at 6 p.m., two hours earlier than last year, more workers are wondering whether the extended shopping hours are worth it for businesses that are not big-box retailers.
Medieval Times is a family entertainment company that sells dinner and tournament-style shows. The company began offering Thanksgiving Day show tickets last year, but this year, the company is planning to add a Christmas show at its New Jersey facility.
A family member of a Medieval Times worker started a petition asking the company to cancel its Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day shows so employees can spend time with their families. More than 1,700 people have signed the petition so far.
Jamie Ordonez, 30, from Kearny, N.J., said she hopes customers won't purchase tickets for those holidays so the company is forced to cancel those showings.
"When I learned that they would be scheduling shows on Thanksgiving day and Christmas day, I was upset the only two holidays they had were being taken away from not only them but their families as well," she told ABCNews.com. "I decided to take a stand against this company and be a voice for these employees."
Medieval Times did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Andrew Lewis, 33, a Staples worker in southeast Georgia who is using an alias to protect his job, told ABCNews.com he was surprised that Staples decided to open earlier on Thanksgiving Day when there have only been a handful of people in line on Black Friday in previous years, some looking to save $75 on an external hard drive.
"It's something usually reserved for people who are hardcore bargain hunters and in past years we've had a small line of six or a dozen people looking for the cheapest of computers," Lewis said. "From what I have observed, they don't really improve the sales or profits. There's no monetary reason to do so."
To compete with the other big-box retailers, Target announced earlier this week that it will open stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Staples locations will be open on Thanksgiving Day from 8 p.m. until midnight in permitted areas, according to Staples spokesperson Carrie McElwee, and will re-open on Black Friday at 6 a.m.
"This gives our customers the opportunity to shop when they want to shop, while allowing employees to spend time with family," McElwee said. "Additionally, for those who prefer to shop from the comfort of their home, we will also have great deals on the new Staples.com online storefront."
One particularly disgruntled Staples employee started a Change.org petition asking the office supplies company to stay closed on Thanksgiving. The petition has over 7,000 signatures, according to its Change.org page.
"Do they honestly think people are going to be standing outside on Thanksgiving evening for bulk paper and pencils?" asked the anonymous Staples petitioner. "I see no reason that Staples needs to be open on Thanksgiving other than pure greed."
Lewis said he is sympathetic to stores that are keeping doors open longer to offer highly sought-after items, for example, the hottest toy available during the holidays.
"Our clientele are usually business folks who usually buy products when they need them," Lewis said. "For Staples and our normal clientele, it doesn't make sense to go with the crowd and do these kinds of sales."
However, if he is asked to work on Thanksgiving Day, Lewis, who said he enjoys his job, said he will show up to work.
"But I respectfully acknowledge my dissatisfaction," Lewis said.
Patricia Stumpff, 61, in Dayton, Ohio, has worked at Target for six years. She said she is disappointed that Target is opening an hour earlier on Thanksgiving this year.
She wrote a letter to Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel two years ago, and another letter to executives this past Saturday. Two weeks ago, she started a petition on Change.org that has over 47,000 signatures.
"My anger about this issue has increased year after year as Target and other retail stores have moved up the opening time for 'Black Friday' from 6 a.m. to 4 a.m., to midnight, to 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, and now it appears that it will be 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day," Stumpff wrote in the letter she mailed this past weekend.
Stumpff acknowledged that some retailers, such as Michaels Arts and Crafts, open up even earlier, sometimes at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, while other retailers may even stay open all of Thanksgiving Day. But she said Target in particular is "hypocritical" in its messaging to employees.
"A night or two ago, I saw a holiday ad for Target on TV," Stumpff wrote. "In the commercial they show scenes of a turkey dinner and people celebrating Christmas traditions and then someone says 'Everyone at the Table -- #MyKindOfHoliday.' How hypocritical to advertise that 'My Kind of Holiday' is to have everyone at the table and then to open up on the National Holiday of Thanksgiving and force employees, their families and friends, as well as compulsive shoppers, to miss out on holiday dinners with their own families!!"
Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Target, said in a statement, "We respect the right of all of our team members and guests to express their opinions. We encourage our team members to speak directly with their team leadership to work together to address any concerns they may have."
Stumpff wonders if the lines are blurred when Target management says employees can volunteer for work.
"That may or may not be true, but Target is setting a bad example and a precedent for other companies to open up who do force their employees to work the holidays," she wrote.
There are steps some companies are taking to soften the blow for employees working on the holidays.
With Walmart stores opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, workers will be eligible to receive holiday pay, which is pay equivalent to the average of the number of hours worked for the previous two weeks, in addition to their typical wages. They also will receive a 25 percent discount on items they purchase. The company will also feed them Thanksgiving dinner at work.
The company explains that most Walmart stores are open 24 hours, 7 days a week, so they have been open on Thanksgiving for years.
"Walmart associates are really excited to work that day," said Duncan Mac Naughton, executive vice president, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart U.S. on a conference call on Thursday to discuss the company's holiday plans. "It's a pretty high energy day for associates as well."
- Holidays & Celebrations