It's time to shop and dine, and shop again, in SLO County

Waiting Thursday at the Atascadero Kmart at 6 a.m. are, from left, Tanisha Contreras and son, Ethan Rendon, 3, and Tammy Tucker and sons Bayden Meystedt, 11, and Camden Meystedt, 12, all of Paso Robles.
Waiting Thursday at the Atascadero Kmart at 6 a.m. are, from left, Tanisha Contreras and son, Ethan Rendon, 3, and Tammy Tucker and sons Bayden Meystedt, 11, and Camden Meystedt, 12, all of Paso Robles. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

On Thanksgiving Day, you couldn’t go to the bank, post office, library or farmers market, but you could pick up a big-screen TV for a bargain price.

The feast of options for how to spend your holiday time included four football and eight basketball games on TV, at least five free public community Thanksgiving meals around the county, and many beaches and mountain trails to walk on.

And shopping was easier than ever. Target, Toys R Us, Walmart and Kmart have opened on Thanksgiving Day before. This year, some retailers pushed opening hours even earlier.

On Thanksgiving, Best Buy opened at 6 p.m. and J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Sears and Staples at 8.

But they were relative latecomers. The sun hadn’t even come up when the Atascadero Kmart opened its doors.

Tammy Lopez was there. She planned to sandwich her turkey between two slices of shopping. The chance to buy an Android tablet for $40 got her out of bed in time to arrive at Kmart at 3 a.m.

The family would head home to cook and eat, Lopez said, then head back out to hit sales at Walmart, Target and Sears.

“It doesn’t bother me,” she said of the sales on Thanksgiving Day. “My turkey’s already in the oven.”

But she and her husband weren’t there early enough to claim the first spot in line. Doug Larrison of Paso Robles showed up at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to be sure he’d be able to buy a 50-inch flat-screen TV for $400, advertised as a savings of $100. Then he planned to head to Bradley for Thanksgiving dinner at his daughter’s house.

Shopping was a family affair for Tammy Tucker of Paso Robles, who arrived at 5:30 a.m. with two sons, 12 and 11 years old.

“I used to boycott,” she said of the Thanksgiving Day sale at Kmart. “I thought it was wrong.”

She didn’t like the idea of employees having to work on the holiday, but she changed her mind after talking to some of them and hearing they were able to schedule their family time around their work shifts.

After her family has its Thanksgiving Day meal, Tucker said, they planned to go out again to shop at Dick’s Sporting Goods and Old Navy.

One person not spending time shopping on Thanksgiving is Deidre “DeDe” Basile of Cambria.

“I will not shop on Thanksgiving,” she wrote in a tweet in response to a reporter’s inquiry. “Let families have (one) day.”

She planned to spend the day at home, she said later, hosting 15 friends from as far as San Diego.

They are all “Thanksgiving orphans,” Basile said. She’ll shop on Friday, but “shopping on Thanksgiving is absolutely, wrong, wrong, wrong it’s offensive to me.”

Store employees “don’t really want to work,” she said. “If enough people don’t shop, maybe they won’t do it next year.”

“American families are already under stress more than in any other rich country around the world,” Harold Kerbo, a Cal Poly professor of sociology since 1977, wrote in an email when asked to comment on Thanksgiving Day sales. “American employees have fewer days off already and work more hours than before. Currently, American employees average around 2,000 hours of work per year, probably the highest of any industrial society, with a possible exception of Japan.”

Most European countries average about 1,500 hours, according to the three-time Fulbright scholar and author of several books, including “World Poverty: Global Inequality and the Modern World System.”

“American families need less stress and more family time,” Kerbo said. “In some ways, this family stress can be blamed on many of our youth social problems.” But “the choice to answer this call to spend money still rests with the individual,” the Rev. Rod Richards of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Luis Obispo County said. Also a member of the San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association, Richards noted that, if people are shopping on Thanksgiving Day, “we can hardly be surprised by this in a society that revolves around consumer spending.”

“We should ask how we can nurture, not just commerce, but community,” he said. “As we keep an eye out for bargains, we should ask ourselves: What is of utmost worth?”

At 6 a.m. sharp Thanksgiving Day, a Kmart employee opened the doors.

“Good morning, folks,” she called out. “Come on in.”

It took less than two minutes for the orderly parade of shopping carts pushed by the 50 or so in line to rattle over the threshold. Minutes later, the first sales were rung up, just as first light spread across Thanksgiving dawn.