Monday, March 24, 2008


More on moron laws

Sometimes I think I do wonder whether there really is some supernatural cosmic comedian causing crazy coincidences.[1]

Sign: no selling home appliances on SundaysOn Friday, I posted an entry about stupid laws in Massachusetts, and a state legislator there who’s trying to repeal them.

On Sunday, I went to check out the New Jersey branch of Mitsuwa Marketplace. The store is in Bergen County, NJ. It seems that Bergen County has an odd law, which you can see from the sign to the right (click to enlarge). The black-and-yellow band that the sign is hanging from is one of those things that’s used to guide people through queues, and they’re being used here to block access to the aisles that contain things like coffee makers, rice cookers, electric skillets, and, as you see below the sign, electric fish roasters.

I’ll reproduce the English part of the sign here:

Bergen County’s Blue Law
prohibits the sale of
home appliances on Sundays.

Say what?

What possible reason can there be for such a specific prohibition? They’re afraid that people will shop for home appliances instead of going to church? They don’t want people shopping for electric skillets on God’s Day of Rest (but skillets that go on the stove top are okey-dokey)?

Just one more reason, of many, to stay away from New Jersey....

[1] Well, no, I don’t. I do, on the other hand, like alliteration.


Julietta said...

Maybe they're not such morons in Joisey:

[From wikipedia, but sources are cited:] One of the last remaining blue laws in the United States that covers virtually all selling is found in Bergen County, New Jersey. It is incongruous that one of the largest and most popular commercial shopping cores of the New York metropolitan area is almost completely closed on Sunday (grocery stores are allowed to operate). Perhaps an even greater incongruity is that Bergen County's blue laws nonetheless permit liquor stores to operate on Sundays, while preventing the operation of most other types of retail establishments. Paramus, whose four major shopping malls account for a significant proportion of the over $5 billion in annual retail sales generated in the borough, more than any other ZIP Code in the United States,[6] has blue laws that are even more restrictive than those imposed in the rest of the County.

"Furthermore, Bergen County (with a 2000 Census population of 884,118) has significant numbers of Jewish (2000 estimate of 83,700, about 9.5% of the total) and Muslim (2000 estimate of 6,473, less than 1%) residents whose observant members of both faiths do not observe their Sabbath on Sunday as is observed by those among the county's Christian residents.[7] The substantial Orthodox Jewish minority is placed in the position of being unable to shop either on Sunday (due to the blue laws) or on Saturday (due to religious observance, except for a small window on Saturday evening for Orthodox Jews during the fall and winter when sunset is earliest).[8][9]

However, repeated attempts to lift the law have failed as voters either see keeping the law on the books as a protest against the growing trend toward increasing hours and days of commercial activity in American society or enjoy the sharply reduced traffic on major roads and highways on Sunday that is normally seen the other days of the week. In fact, a large part of the reason for maintaining the laws has been a desire for relative peace and quiet one day of the week by many Bergen County residents.[10]

This desire for relative peace is most apparent in Paramus, where some of the county's largest shopping malls are located, along the intersecting highways of Route 4 and Route 17, which are jam-packed on many Saturdays. Paramus has enacted blue laws of its own that are even more restrictive than those enforced by Bergen County,[11] banning all forms of "worldly employment" on Sundays, including white collar workers in office buildings.[10] Local Blue laws in Paramus were first proposed in 1957, while the Bergen Mall and Garden State Plaza were under construction. The legislation was motivated by fears that the two new malls would aggravate the already severe highway congestion caused by local retail businesses along the borough's highways.[12]

10. IN NEW JERSEY; PARAMUS BLUE LAWS CRIMP OFFICE LEASING, The New York Times, November 4, 1984. "Officials tried to regulate the effects of the tremendous growth on the borough by insisting that at least one day a week, Paramus be allowed to enjoy some of its former peace and quiet. In 1957, an ordinance was passed banning all worldly employment on Sundays, forcing all the new stores and malls built in the celery fields to close for the day."

11. Paramus mayor faces challenge, The Record (Bergen County), October 31, 2006. "Both candidates said they would stand strong against any weakening of the blue laws, which keep most stores closed on Sunday, and would work to keep Paramus' laws the most restrictive in the state."

12. "SUNDAY SELLING PLAGUING JERSEY; Local Businesses Pushing Fight Against Activities of Stores on Highways - Other Group Active Local Option Opposed", The New York Times, June 2, 1957. p. 165

lidija said...

I think the home appliance rule is just hilarious but probably has some sort of outdated story behind it.

But, back to what Julietta wrote. I have a friend who moved to Norway recently and she was completely taken aback by everything being closed on Sundays. It made you really rest, she said.

Barry Leiba said...

Riiiight, so instead of having the presence of mind not to allow over-development (which presence of mind might have given them steady relief), they instead demand that their ridiculous excess of stores be closed one day a week.

As I said: one more reason to avoid New Jersey.

D. said...

I was a manager for Macy's back in the 1980's, and they commissioned a study to find out how much money their Paramus store was losing by not having that seventh day open. Interestingly enough, they discovered that they didn't lose any. People adjusted their shopping habits and get what they need done on the other 6 days.

On the other hand, there will always be consumers for whom nothing short of open 24/7 would be enough. That same Christmas season, trying to get customers queued up at registers for an 11 PM closing, and one guy became belligerent with me. "But it's only 11 o'clock!" I had been there since 10 that morning, which I'm sure didn't matter to him at all.

I remember when we were kids that most stores were closed on Sundays, and I even remember that down in lower Manahattan, near Delancey Street, they'd all be closed on Saturdays and open on Sundays, because it was a Jewish neighborhood. And as lidija points out, that's still a way of life in Europe.

Quite frankly, I wouldn't mind a return to that at all.

Julietta said...