Home > Dollars & Sense, Social Issues, The Body Politic > Easter Trading – A “victimless crime”?

Easter Trading – A “victimless crime”?

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happiness is just around the corner

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Some years ago, on ANZAC Day,  I was in a convenience store in downtown Wellington, chatting with a staffmember who also happened to be a friend.

It was before 1pm, and according to the law, whilst the convenience store was able to open, it was not able to sell alcohol.

A customer came in and wanted to buy a bottle of wine (who drinks booze in the morning?!). The staffmember advised him politely that, according to the law, they were not able to sell alcohol before 1pm.

The customer – a well-dressed pakeha male – threw what can only be called a tantrum and demanded his “rights” to buy whatever he wanted.

The shop assistant stood her ground. He continued ranting. And that’s when I said to him,

Do you realise that if she sells you that alcohol, she is breaking the law, and if caught, would lose her job?”

His reply? He spat back with a fair degree of venom, “I don’t care. I don’t give a shit about her job. I just want what I came in for.”

To which I replied,

Well, if you don’t care about her job, why should she care about your so-called rights? It cuts both ways, mate.”

His response was to swear and stormed out of the store.

Good riddance to an arsehole who, as a child, must have gotten everything he wanted by simply demanding it and stomping his feet.

I’ve never forgotten that incident. To me, it signified everything that is wrong with our society.

Since the mid/late 1980s, it seems to me that a “Me Culture” of  individualism, has achieved a degree of dominance that, in the past, would not have been countenanced.

This “Me Culture” is  one that demands consumer goods and services whenever we want it, without due regard for consequences or the rights and needs of others.  The issue of easy availability of cheap alcohol is one such example.

We all know that cheap booze is causing millions of dollars worth of damage to our society and economy. BERL put the figure at over $4.5 billion in 2005/06.  (See: Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use) The demands placed on paramedic callouts, frontline hospital services, Police, Courts, Prisons, and loss to the economy due to ACC payouts, lost work days, family disruption and violence, etc, is costing our country hundreds of millions of dollars.

Yet, when community leaders and elected representatives want to control aspects of the booze industry, the shrill screams of outrage usually centre around one, selfish, argument,

“Why do you want to penalise me for the actions of others?”

Check out any messageboard, internet forum, letters to editor page, etc, on this issue – you’ll find that argument repeated ad nauseum. (And whinging like that it is nauseating.)

The perennial debate about retailers trading over the Easter weekend is another prime example of the “Me Culture”.

Companies such as Oderings flout the law every year; are fined a paltry $1,000, and are left to repeat the offence year after year,

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2011

Garden centre defies Easter trading ban

Acknowledgement: TVNZ – Garden centre defies Easter trading ban

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2012

Nursery enjoys a good Friday

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Nursery enjoys a good Friday

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2013

Easter trading 'a victimless crime' - retailer

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Easter trading ‘a victimless crime’ – retailer

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Meanwhile, in a quirky irony, larger corporate chain stores obeyed the law,

New Zealand Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the corporate chains usually stuck to the rules, and would be closed today and Sunday.

Acknowledgement: IBID

The $1,000 fine paid by each store is outweighed by the big profits made by the law-breaking retailers.

So is it a “victimless crime”, as garden centre owner, Darryn Odering insists?

Or is this a a case of businesses manipulating ill-informed public opinion; selfish attitudes;  and exploiting their advantage as a minority of law-defying businesses, trading when their competitors are closed?

There are other laws in this country – specifically drug related – where it could be reasonably argued that smoking cannabis; ingesting LSD; snorting cocaine; or injecting heroin, is a “victimless crime”.

Yet, our prisons are filled with people who’ve used cannabis,  LSD,  cocaine, or heroin.

And how, specifically is “victimless” defined?

Are retail assistants who are forced to work on public holidays “victims” of  business owners whose only concerns are turning a profit?

There are a few numpties in this country who mistakenly  think that retail assistants (along with fast-food workers, etc) have a “choice” in working on public holidays.

Let me disabuse these naive individuals if that illusion. Retail, fast-food, etc, workers have zero choice in working whatever days/nights they are rostered on.  When employers interview staff one of their first questions will be,

“Can you work public holidays/evenings/nights/etc?” – despendent on what hours the business is operating.

If an employer needs staff  on a Monday, regardless of a public holiday; and s/he has two candidates; all other things being roughly equal; one can work a public holiday; the other can’t – who do you think the employer will choose?

And if a staff member doesn’t like working on  public holidays, and would rather spend time with a family; or has children to look after when schools are closed – do the Pro-Choice Muppets really believe that the employee has the power to change their rostered hours with repercussions?

I submit to the reader that with 170,000 unemployed in this country (and possibly higher according to some stats – see:  New Zealand Real Unemployment at 9.1%), that no retail or fast food worker will jeopardise their job by refusing to work public holidays.

They are a victim of their powerlessness and  high unemployment.

This is not a “victimless” crime. It is an exploitative crime, much like the pimp who forces his girlfriend/wife/relation out onto the streets at night, to have sex with strangers for money. It may be a legal activity, but it is not “victimless” (see: Girls pimped out by relatives – pastor )

Secondly; Louise Evans McDonald, of  the Retailers Association government and advisory group manager stated that,

“Many retailers similarly deserve the right to decide whether they open or not.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Easter trading ‘a victimless crime’ – retailer

And that, folks, is the crux of the matter.

Oderings is open during Easter because it is hugely profitable.

Why is is hugely profitable?

Because it’s a public holiday.

Would it be hugely profitable if every single business was open on Easter Friday? Including schools, government departments, etc? In fact, if Easter Friday and Easter Monday was no different to any other day of the week – how profitable would it be for law-breakers like Oderings?

The answer, of course, is that it wouldn’t. It would simply be another business day. Let’s be clear here;

Oderings relies on it’s profits because it’s competitors obey the law.

Oderings would not have those huge  profits if it Easter Friday (and Monday) was another normal trading day.

So people like Rochelle Cook, with her children, at  Oderings Nursery in Upper Hutt on  Good Friday in 2012 (top image) would be at work and her children at day care.

So if the law is to be changed, let’s do it fairly and apply it across the board throughout the country: everything opens and everyone (with a job) works. Not just the captive retail assistants and fast food workers. Everyone.

And this is where the rubber hits the road. Do we, as a country, want to give up a holiday so we can all work like any other day?

And if we’re all working – how will that benefit us and retail outlets?

The answer is; it doesn’t benefit us. We get another day that shops are open and we’re all working. Oh  whoopty f****n doo.  What the hell did we just gain/lose?!?!

To all elected representatives, I offer this advice;

  1. If we’re serious about keeping our holidays, then it’s time that the $1,000 fine was increased to a more meaningful amount. $25,000 seems a nice figure. The current  penalty of $1,000 is meaningless. It’d be like sentencing a drug pusher to community service. Both are supposedly “victimless” crimes, after all.
  2. If we’re going to allow Oderings to open on Easter – then make it a blanket law, across the country. Everyone opens; everyone works.  That includes schools on Easter Friday and Easter Monday.  No one takes time off.

Now let’s see which way the public jumps.

As for Mr Odering, in future I think our household will be shopping at Mitre10 for our gardening supplies.

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*

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References

TVNZ: Garden centre defies Easter trading ban (22 April 2011)

Fairfax Media: Nursery enjoys a good Friday (7 April 2012)

Fairfax Media: Easter trading ‘a victimless crime’ – retailer (29 March 2013)

Fairfax Media: Drought wilts Easter trade in plants (30 April 2013)

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= fs =

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  1. Deb
    30 March 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I agree with you Frank. Most retail workers do not choose whether or not to work public holidays, it’s part of the job. Not only that, for many outlets of chain stores or franchises it is ‘head office’ that decide which days they open.
    Personally, I don’t shop on public holidays. It’s my personal way of saying that everyone deserves a day off now and then.

  2. Citizen Gee
    30 March 2013 at 3:21 pm

    i think I’d rather have my holidays, thank you very muchly.

    And Oderings should be fined a lot more than the slap on the wrist they’re getting with a wet bus ticket. If I grew a marijuana plant in my home I bet you I’d get a sentence tougher than what Oderings is.

    Thanks for pointing this out Frank. We won’t be shopping at Oderings anymore.

  3. Athena-Margarita
    30 March 2013 at 3:52 pm

    They should make the law simple during the Easter period. Either allow businesses to open with no restrictions or close them completely.

    • K
      31 March 2013 at 11:29 am

      The law is already simple – only essential services such as service stations are allowed to legally open.

      What isn’t so straight forward is the mixed message the enforcement of the law is sending. I proposed that the fine be paid to the workers who were forced to work a statutory holiday.

  4. 30 March 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Staff shouldn’t be forced to work holidays they want to spend with their families.And yes economic power can be a type of “force”. That said, I would personally be OK with retail outlets having the option if the workers were for example students who were paid penalty rates for the work. Rather than the Government getting a $1,000 for each trading outlet, maybe that could be the wages bonus for the part-time staff covering the work?

  5. dwnats (down with Nats)
    30 March 2013 at 4:15 pm

    If an owner wants to open, he should work it alone. No question about availability for public holidays should be allowed on job application. But I disapprove of all or any religious holidays being called “public”. More Labour Days off!

  6. 30 March 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Unfortunately, Kay, I can see penalty rates vanishing real fast. Just as it did after Saturday shopping – followed by all weekend shopping – was introduced in the 1980s. I recall how retail workers used to be paid 1.25 and 1.5 penalty rates, respectively for working Saturdays and Sundays.

    That went out the door after weekend trading became the norm…

    • 30 March 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Absolutely, there are good reasons for unions to oppose Easter trading. A few exploitative bosses and laws will often spoil what could otherwise be a more genuine co-operative arrangement. If union and worker powers were strengthened to enable more even bargaining then specific regulations would be less essential. Where minimum wages and conditions are all you have to rely on then they need to be strong. Where equal power is written into relationships then the details may not need to be so prescriptive.

      • K
        31 March 2013 at 11:32 am

        And now they can employ “youth” next year!

        Or, for an even more insidious twist employers can offer potential interviewees a “trial” period that happens to fall on the statutory holiday. That way they get away with not paying (it is after all part of the interview) and to test just how exploitable the new employees will be.

  7. James
    30 March 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Take from them their NET earnings for the entire long weekend.

    • 30 March 2013 at 10:43 pm

      James, that would really kill the problem stone-cold dead.

      And why not? The Justice system has provisions for the Proceeds of Crimes to be confiscated. I see no difference between drugs (one “victimless crime”) and breaking the laws on Easter trading, another “victimless crime”.

      • K
        31 March 2013 at 11:33 am

        No reward = no demand!

  8. D Weisz
    30 March 2013 at 11:04 pm

    How about bringing triple time back & a day in lieu as well for all who work any part of the day(s). Employers will have a choice then, “to be open or not to be?”

    • 30 March 2013 at 11:08 pm

      That might at least compensate people for working on stat hols, Denny. But would employers go for it, in this day and age of the “free market”?

      It’s interesting that the New Right insist on user pays – but aren’t willing to pay extra for labour on statutory holidays…

  9. 30 March 2013 at 11:08 pm

    $25,000 seems a nice figure.

    Forget the fine. I’m of the opinion that when a business breaks the law it should be closed down with the managers/directors/CEOs/shareholders being barred from owning a business or being employed as a manager for a minimum of five years.

    Make it so that there are real consequences.

  10. di\
    31 March 2013 at 10:01 am

    Thank you for explaining this so clearly. Now, if you could only get the main stream media to put your views out to the public people might be able to see that the glittering open signs allowing them to consume are built squarely on their own wage slavery.

  11. Deborah Kean
    31 March 2013 at 3:05 pm

    This argument comes up every year -and every year, people make the same accusation against me – when I oppose Easter trading – someone screams “You’re shoving your religion down my throat, how dare you!” When I say that *in this respect* my religion is irrelevant, and I am supporting workers’ rights, the same person will flaunt his/her suddenly acquired telepathy, and yell that they *know* that I am lying, because I am a Christian, and therefore don’t give a monkeys about worker’s rights. (Somehow, they feel guilty about oppressing workers, but positively righteous about opposing religion (I could tell another story about that, but won’t.)
    It all comes down to hearing Lana Coc-Kroft on 91ZM in the 1990s. She was raving about public holidays, and that they are for recreation – therefore she should be able to pursue her favourite hobby. It just so happened that her favourite hobby was shopping. Had the interwebs been available then, I’d have emailed her and asked by her recreation should be allowed to trump that of retail workers, but sadly, I couldn’t.
    Disclaimer – I am a Christian, but my opposition to Easter Trading also applies to ANZAC Day – it’s about workers’ rights.
    Deb

  12. 1 April 2013 at 9:05 am

    Make the fine equivalent to all revenue earned on that day + a significant fine.

  13. Jane Smith
    2 April 2013 at 5:14 am

    I work at Oderings and was told in very subtle ways that if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t be rostered on more than a few hours per week. So any politician who sez it’s a “worker’s choice” is utterly in denial of how we are being forced to give away our holidays.

    I’m looking for work somewhere else, but it’s not easy. In the meantime, I do what I’m told, or risk having my hours cut to five a week and taking home $60 or $80 if I’m lucky. That’s to feed me and my family.

    I hope all those people supporting Oderings to break the law realise what they are doing.

  14. Chelsea
    2 August 2013 at 1:35 pm

    It’s really very difficult in this active life to listen news on TV, thus I simply use web for that purpose, and get the most recent information.

  15. stephm2013
    28 September 2014 at 8:54 am

    Yes I agree . Public holidays should mean a day off for all workers. I am a Christian too and believe that allowing people public holidays is very much a Christian matter. First of all,we are to love God and secondly to love our neighbour (which flows naturally from that). This means having the respect for people as part of God’s creation to allow them public holidays free of work obligations.

  1. 8 June 2013 at 4:55 pm
  2. 7 May 2014 at 8:01 am
  3. 10 July 2018 at 8:19 am
  4. 15 July 2018 at 8:02 am

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