I love the fact that I could spend today, a Sunday, shopping like it was any other day of the week. I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the past several weeks since returning to the US, subsisting on a meager winter wardrobe of two pairs of jeans, six shirts, and three sweaters.
I woke up this morning and thought that I really need to do something about this, especially now that I’m in DC, where it’s obviously colder than California. I mean, the colder it is, the less you sweat, and therefore the less need there is to wash your clothing after wearing it. But, unlike in an African village, in the US it seems socially unacceptable to wear the same shirt multiple days in a row.
It was time to take action. But then I remembered it was Sunday. Darn it, everything will be closed. On the outside chance, I thought I’d check online for the opening hours of a few stores. Lo and behold, I discovered that all of the stores were open!
I had forgotten where I was: the United States of AMERICA, a land of total convenience, where consumption is unfettered by the boundaries of time or space. Well, the stores did close early on Sunday, at 5 pm or 6 pm, but “early” is a relative term – that’s the time at which many European stores close on the weekdays.
And good luck trying to find any stores open on a Sunday in some European countries. Several European countries have Sunday shopping laws that restrict Sunday opening hours. In the UK, for example, the Sunday Trading Act dictates that “large” shops (with a floor area of 28 square meters or more) are only allowed to open for 6 hours on Sundays, between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm (small shops, like convenience stores, can set their own Sunday hours).
But America knows that what matters is not the labor rights of retail workers, nor spending time with your family on a Sunday, nor observing the day of Christian worship of God, nor giving small retailers a chance to compete against large chain stores. What matters is being able to buy anything you want at any time, be it Sunday or Monday, day or night – that is an American right.
Call me superficial or selfish, but personally, I find it very convenient; long retail opening hours are one of the things that make life in the US so damn easy. I can buy toothpaste at 10 pm, do my grocery shopping at midnight, stop into the 24-hour CVS at 3 am to satisfy my munchies, and pop by the Starbucks for a coffee at quarter to nine at night (many cafés in Europe are only open during the daytime… nighttime coffee drinking at cafés seems to be an American thing).
But the sad truth is that the long opening hours in the US – both the late closing times during the week (e.g. 9, 10, or even 11 pm) and the regular Sunday openings – are probably just a symptom of the equally long hours workaholic Americans are spending at the office. Stores simply wouldn’t make any business if they weren’t open such long hours, namely hours longer than people are working. The moral of the story, kids: work hard, spend late.