Thanksgiving Day has been shifting into just another workday on retail workers' schedules. Shoppers' demand for constant consumerism has been driving this trend to keep stores' doors open just about every day of the year. When money talks, companies listen -- and many have heard that consumers' dollars demand Black Friday bargains the day before.
At heart, the Thanksgiving Day controversy is about employee treatment, and how dollars impact demand. If shoppers stayed home, retailers would shutter their stores on a holiday many find sacred. However, how retail workers are treated goes far beyond one holiday controversy.
It's too late to push to hold back Thanksgiving Day spending this year, but the consumer spending feeding frenzy Black Friday heralds is under way. It's still the season of giving -- and reflection -- and it's the perfect time to think about what consumer spending supports, all year long.
More and more Americans want to see retail workers treated well; protests and news coverage has increased over the last several years, targeting major companies like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and McDonald's (NYSE:MCD).
Many Americans may not always know exactly which stores actually provide that change they desperately wish to see, though -- worse, they might not even know that some retailers treat their workers well at all. That needs to change.
Here are a few of the companies that are part of the solution, not the problem. They provide far better wages and benefits in an industry that isn't known for such things, as well as respect and dignity for retail workers.
The Container Store (NYSE:TCS) pays its employees an average of $50,000 per year, an extremely high salary in the retail industry, which compensates employees with an annual average of $25,000. It also offers many benefits such as 401(K) plans, medical plans and health-related benefits, paid time off, and a corporate wellness program.
Chipotle's (NYSE:CMG) employees start off at about $18,000 per year, which can boot up to $21,000 per year in benefits and bonuses; this sounds pretty typical of the fast food segment of retail. However, they have a career path and promotion opportunities to aspire to. If they climb the ladder to success there – and there is a ladder, not simply a bottom rung -- they could one day become a Restaurateur, which pays $129,000 per year. Most fast food companies offer little in the way of a career path -- other than to move on, and that's where Chipotle's different.
Starbucks' (NASDAQ:SBUX) baristas reap a lot of benefits that are unheard of in its industry. The coffee giant was one of the companies to spearhead medical insurance for baristas, including part-time workers, as well as stock options known as Bean Stock. In January, Starbucks is implementing a raise for baristas and shift managers.
Costco (NASDAQ:COST) is another gold-standard company when it comes to employee treatment. The average Costco employee makes about $20 per hour, or about $43,000 per year, and the lion's share receive health benefits.
Last but not least, Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM) is another company that has made treating employees well an intrinsic part of its business mission. In 2013, the average worker salary was about $39,000 per year. Employees receive health benefits and stock options as well.
A smarter way to spend
Some of the aforementioned retailers have reputations for being pricy, and this time of year is known for retailers' tantalizing deals. However, part of what we're paying for -- and supporting with our dollars -- is their ability to pay their people well and offer useful perks and benefits.
There's nothing wrong with looking for bargains; many of us are on budgets and have to watch our pennies. However, there's something to be said for strategically directing some of the spending money we do have to the companies that try to do things better.
Our whole economy benefits when more people can pay their bills and spend discretionary income, so the picture is even bigger than the happiness of your favorite cashier or barista. It's a gift all of us, all year round.
Check back at Fool.com for more of Alyce Lomax's columns on environmental, social, and governance issues.