Some years ago, merchants came up with a great way to jump-start the Christmas shopping season.

The shopping season officially began the day after Thanksgiving and has become known as "Black Friday."

We remember how some stores opened at 5 a.m. and lines began forming hours earlier by people lured by great advertised bargains who desperately wanted to be among the first in the store to capitalize on them.

Now, some stores are changing the rules. Some are advertising they will open at midnight on Thursday. We heard of one opening at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night.

The result is many people will likely lose their appeal for Black Friday shopping. When stores opened at 5 a.m., people would get together and travel to the stores in groups. It was fun to plan a circuit of several stores for Black Friday shopping.

The stores jumping the gun are also unfair to their employees. Many store employees are part-time workers. All the employees need their jobs, so they aren't in a position to reject the terrible hours they are forced to work in the name of commerce; aka greed.

Many of these employees want to enjoy the big Thanksgiving meal with their family, and then spend time with them for the rest of the day. Now, they must be at work by 11 p.m. so the store can open at midnight. How many shoppers will really be at the store at midnight?

Black Friday is still going to be a big shopping day. But it's going to lose its luster by moving the opening hours earlier and earlier, and cutting into the holiday of Thanksgiving.

We're not criticizing the Black Friday tradition of kicking off the Christmas shopping season. Merchants should do anything they can to boost sales. Rushing the Christmas shopping season by opening stores before Thanksgiving is officially over is ridiculous and wrong.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com