The Electric Commentary

Sunday, November 27, 2005

And I thought that Minnesota was crazy for not selling beer on Sunday.

Apparently it's illegal to sell almost anything on Thanksgiving Day in Massachusetts, as Whole Foods learned this past Thursday:

What high crimes and misdemeanors was the upscale grocer plotting? It was going to open its doors for business on Thanksgiving. Shocking! It was going to sell fruit and vegetables and milk and desserts. And why? Because, as company executive David Lannon told the Globe last week, Whole Foods knows that on the most food-oriented day of the year, some consumers run out of ingredients. ''It proves to be a very busy morning for people to get flour or baked goods," Lannon explained. ''It's for people . . . who say, 'Ooh, I need more butter or another bunch of celery.' "

In short, Whole Foods was going to make its wares available to Massachusetts customers on Thanksgiving -- just as it does for customers in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and two-dozen other states nationwide. Bay State consumers panicked over an eleventh-hour shortage of dried apricots or hazelnut extract would have been able to get what they needed before the in-laws showed up at the front door. Whole Foods employees wouldn't have been required to work, but those volunteering would have earned double pay. Willing seller, willing buyers, willing workers -- an economist looking at such an arrangement would have seen the free market at its best.

The attorney general of Massachusetts looked at it and saw a crime. In a stiff letter to Whole Foods last week, Attorney General Thomas Reilly noted that under Chapter 136 of the Massachusetts legal code, ''the performance of work on legal holidays is prohibited, unless permitted by a statutory exemption." If Whole Foods opened its doors on Thanksgiving, the letter warned, it could face ''criminal and equitable enforcement actions to enjoin violations of the Blue Laws."

That's from an article by Jeff Jacoby at Read the whole thing.

A tip of the cap to Ed Brayton, who has more here.


  • Nice. The AG said that if they wish to be open on Thanksgiving then there are ways to do it. This sounds like one of those third world countries where excessive regulations choke the economy by creating opportunities for corruption and businesses use them to avoid competition.

    Then again, I've had jobs where I had to work every holiday and I couldn't go see my family which really sucks especially because there were almost nevery any customers. Perhaps it is good to value something other than productivity, even if only for 3 days a year. Not that I'd bar voluntary work for doubletime like Whole Foods attempted.

    By Anonymous Scott, at 2:37 PM  

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