Holidays in Hell

man with laptop

Man Who Has Never Worked a Holiday Complains About Stores Closing on Thanksgiving & Christmas

One of the things that three decades in the hospitality industry will teach you is that hotels are open 24/7/365 (other than seasonal hotels that close for the off-season months) which means that someone’s gotta cover those holiday shifts.  For years, I was one of those people

As I’ve previously explained, holiday staffing needs at hotels vary widely.  For most corporate/suburban properties, the entire week of Thanksgiving is a complete wash (UNLESS there’s a local event driving demand).  Business travel is non-existent (you ‘might’ get a few Sunday/Monday stays but that’s really it) which means your hopes are either leisure (people coming into town to visit family/friends) or group (almost always social or leisure).  Monday (and to an extent the entire week) after Thanksgiving is soft (because people who fly out of town to visit family/friends and inevitably fly back on Sunday aren’t going back on the road the next day).  Business travel normally dies off in December; you might get 1 or 2 ‘decent’ weeks, but that’s it.  By the 15th of December, that cake is baked.  People are done traveling for the most part; that’s when your leisure travel kicks in.

Back when I was on the road 35-40 weeks a year I got suckered into traveling the week of Thanksgiving once because an owner/client needed me in a certain port of call that week.  The entire week sucked (the people I was visiting were livid that I was there).  Every bad stereotype about holiday travels came to light in one gong-show evening flying back from my previous port of call.  I felt terrible for the flight crew who were getting more verbal abuse than they deserved from People Who Travel Once a Year.  As is my wont, I sat is my seat, read my book (this was before e-readers and tablets) quietly and watched people behave badly.

One hard rule: the people who act like entitled assholes on flights during the holiday season are the same ones who will go shopping on holidays AND will complain about whatever festive season cup Starbucks is using.  They will also try to put a full size bag in the overhead compartment, spend 30 minutes failing to do this and start a riot in the process.  Don’t be that person.

Twice I’ve had to travel the week of Christmas because of client needs (getting stuck in a suburb on Christmas Night AND New Year’s Eve was nothing short of fantastic); one time in a previous life my boss wanted to have a Department Meeting in his home city the week of Christmas; two days of meetings devolved into what was easily the greatest night of rage-drinking I’ve ever seen.  When half a dozen of my fellow solid citizens are trapped in a hellscape three days before Christmas attending meetings, you knew this was going to end badly; by that we got hammered.  It was glorious.

In my time working on property, I’ve worked every holiday imaginable and on 3 occasions have rung the new year in at work.  I didn’t really like it (your personal life takes a beating), but it was expected (and not for anything but New Year’s Eve is a total boondoggle evening; nothing like paying a $20 cover to go to your local bar so you can get a glass of sparkling ‘wine’ swill at midnight (a bottle will run $5 at retail) so I went along.

What I can’t abide with is retail stores being open on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Every year, it seems like more and more retail stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day, and you’re even seeing a few open on Christmas.  This is ridiculous.  I’m at the point now where I even hesitate on going shopping on the day after Thanksgiving mostly because I’m not a fan of crowds; short of an emergency trip for medical supplies I don’t like to shop on holidays.  You do NOT need to go shopping for Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus presents.  For every retail person who’s happy to avoid family by working, there’s probably 3-4 that are quietly livid about working.

Remember those assholes who are terrible travelers and complain about coffee cups?  They’re the most likely ones to be at Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving, and you can bet any amount of money that they’ve never had to work a holiday before.  So pick a lane; either holidays are sacred or they don’t mean shit.

I’m on the fence about restaurants.  On the one hand, some people don’t celebrate holidays and there is a market for being open.  On another hand, people need to eat.  If you do decide to eat out on a holiday, be considerate and be generous (and don’t linger if people are waiting).  So tip well (this means 20-25% as an absolute minimum).

In the end, the holidays are supposed to be celebrations among family and friends.  Don’t be a jackass.  When in doubt, be kind and courteous, and enjoy your holidays.

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