Claim:   Malls are fining store owners $1,100 for every hour they refuse to open on Thanksgiving Day.


MIXTURE


Example:   [Collected via e-mail and Facebook, November 2014]


Malls all over the country are forcing stores to open on Thanksgiving by threatening them with hefty fines and canceling leases. Simon Malls is one of the major violators, reportedly fining some businesses an astonishing $1,150 PER HOUR for refusing to open on Black Thursday.

We’ve gotten so many messages from employees of stores that normally are closed on Thanksgiving. It’s sad that these stores are being forced to participate in this greed.

Please reach out to your local malls to tell them you aren’t happy with this business practice.

Everyone and every company should have the choice to be home with their families. Boycott Black Thursday



 

Origins:   On 13 November 2014, the Facebook page “Boycott Black Thursday” published posts stating real estate management company Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in America (“Simon Malls“), has threatened individual stores with hefty fines for every

hour they refuse to open on Thanksgiving Day and into the following day’s shopping “holiday” commonly known as Black Friday. The page’s name refers to Black Friday’s encroachment onto Thanksgiving, which always falls on a Thursday. According to those posts, Simon plans to fine stores more than $1,000 per hour for every hour they remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. The rumor sparked outcry on social media sites where retail stores’ opening for shoppers on Thanksgiving Day is an unpopular and widely decried practice.

However, it’s unclear whether all stores in every Simon-owned mall are required to be open on Thanksgiving, whether such regulations are made on a corporate-wide or on a local case-by-case basis, what time span between Thanksgiving and Black Friday stores must remain open, and exactly what penalties stores might face for failing to open.
Reports from last year and this year document that at least some malls will be enforcing mandatory opening hours for stores on Thanksgiving Day, but that phenomenon is not exclusive to Simon-owned malls.

Just before the 2013 holiday season, a management memo from the Simon-owned Rockaway Townsquare mall in New Jersey was circulated on the Internet, a memo that instructed store operators the mall would be opening at 8:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day and would remain open through 10:00 PM the following day (i.e., Black Friday). It noted “all tenants are expected to follow the holiday schedule,” but it made no reference to the penalties for failure to comply and was issued as a directive from the mall’s interim manager rather than Simon’s corporate headquarters:

Additionally, Consumerist quoted a “tipster” on the issue who stated mall stores were required to be open on Thanksgiving but could follow a procedure to opt out and avoid being fined (an unspecified amount):



It’s technically mandatory that all stores open at 8pm. However, if they just can’t staff it or their corporate office doesn’t feel it’s in the store’s best interest to open at that time, they can opt out. They have to provide a letter from either their corporate office or a higher-ranking person, such as a regional manager, saying they authorize the store opening at a different time. If they don’t provide this letter and they are not open at 8pm, they’re fined.

In 2014, news outlets have reported some malls are requiring stores to open partway through Thanksgiving Day under penalty of fines (of unspecified amounts), such as the Buffalo-area Walden Galleria (which is owned by Pyramid Management Group, not Simon Property Group):



Buffalo-area malls, including Walden Galleria and McKinley Mall, are planning on opening at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving for holiday season shoppers.

Walden Galleria will be fining stores that do not open at that time, which will kick off the busy shopping season.

At the Walden Galleria, Tee Shirt University manager Shaun Deutsch said his store will be open by 6 p.m. to avoid the fine.

“We’re just stuck following the rules, because if we didn’t, we’d be fined by the mall and being a small company, that’s substantial to us. We can’t just pay that. We have to stay open,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch said this is the first year they have been forced to work Thanksgiving, and that staffing the holiday has been tough.

“It’s been a lot different this year trying to find people to work. It’s not been easy. I’ve been forced to schedule myself because I can’t find anyone else, really, to help me out,” Deutsch said.


The same holds true for Albany’s Crossgates Mall (which is also owned by Pyramid Management Group):



After opening at midnight on Black Friday 2013, Crossgates Mall is opening its doors six hours earlier this year, according to an internal memo.

“Please note that Crossgates Mall has decided to open at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving night and continue to stay open through 10 p.m. on Black Friday,” according to the memo, dated October 28.

The memo reminds store managers that “all in-mall tenants are required to be open during the mall hours listed.” Hours vary at the mall’s anchor stores, which have their own separate entrances.

One store manager, who requested anonymity, called the 6:00 p.m. opening a “despicable, greedy decision,” and noted that employees will be required to report to work an hour early to set up.

“Most people are just gathering with their families around 5:00 pm to give thanks, have fellowship, and to break bread with those that they have not seen in a while,” the manager wrote.

The manager complained that mall executives “will be the ones at home on Thanksgiving, enjoying their families and friends on the holiday, while they, for some reason, don’t believe that we deserve to.”

In an e-mail, the manager added that several other store managers are equally frustrated. The Crossgates Mall marketing department did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported that in 2014, “an overwhelming number of New Jersey malls will be open by 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, including most Simon malls, though they will not stay open through the night.” Similarly, Knoxville, Tennessee, television station WATE reported the town’s two Simon-owned malls will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving night but only “select stores” will be open throughout Thanksgiving night and into Black Friday.

Simon Malls’ Facebook page has been deluged in angry comments, with many users objecting to the practice of enforced Thanksgiving Day opening hours after hearing about the rumor on Facebook:



Close your doors. The @Boycott Black Thursday movement has you in its crosshairs. Do the right thing by ALL of your employees and close for Thanksgiving.

Fining people $1100 per hour is a disgrace!! I am boycotting with my wallet this entire holiday season!


Simon has not yet responded to the controversy on social media sites or otherwise confirmed fines of $1,150 per hour are being imposed on stores that refuse to open on Thanksgiving Day or early on Black Friday. But, as noted above, the practice of mandatory Thanksgiving Day opening hours for mall-based stores is not exclusive to malls owned by the Simon Property Group.

Last updated:   13 November 2014