Not the Mall

Giant shopping malls, like dinosaurs, will die out in the next wave of human development. Humankind has moved from hunter-gatherers to agrarian, to industrial, to technological. I eagerly await the next step from our current homogenous society of shopping malls to variety and individuality. Let me shop on the Internet or through small boutiques, but spare me the mall. It’s just a phase of civilization, a rite of passage, like acne, that one hopes will pass quickly.

Woman with Shopping BagsI despise the shopping malls, where otherwise intelligent humans can circle for hours searching for an exit from a single department store. Perhaps it is my hate-going-to-the-mall attitude, but shopping has become more challenging than ever before. What’s with the English garden maze theme that has overtaken common sense?

I propose a new law of shopping—as immutable as any law of physics—that whatever item you search for will be at the farthest, most difficult to reach point in the store from whichever point of the store you enter. Enter from the main mall entrance in search of men’s socks and you must traverse the entire department store on a convoluted path to find them. You will not be able to retrace your steps to return because while you shopped, clerks moved a few walls and shelves. Re-arranging weekly is also part of this diabolical plan to drive us to catalog shopping.

With books to read and writing to do, I itch to get back home when I’m at the mall. My teen daughter finds shopping at the mall fun. She can spend an entire Saturday shopping for a pair of underwear and call it a great day. If I enter the mall for underwear and cannot buy what I need and be back in my car within an hour, then I’ll abandon that plan and head home for a catalog. I even buy bras by catalog once I know which brand and style actually fits. Of course, if Natori stops making my favorite bras then I may be forced to search E-Bay for replacements.

Don’t give me that shopping-is-on-the-double-X-chromosome argument. I am living proof of the exception. Perhaps in a traditional hunter-gatherer society I would have been carrying a spear instead of berries. My husband says I shop like a man, like a targeted missile. Single-minded. A hunter. Find it efficiently and drag it home quickly. I’ve been known to buy great shoes in three colors to save time. Match that with three purses and I’m outta there like Superman from a phone booth. Done.

One of my friends lives to shop. She’s on a first-name basis with the clerks at the various department stores. I asked if she considered becoming a professional shopper for people like me. She laughed like I was teasing her. She so loves to shop that she can’t imagine that others feel differently. She’ll spend two days searching for a ten-percent discount on a shirt for her daughter. I hand my daughter cash and tell her when to meet me back at the fountain. It works for us. I’d rather spend time at lunch with my daughter than follow her through aisle after aisle of racks while she tries on fifteen tops for the one that will go with her favorite shorts.

Ask me to take a cat to the vet for shots. Invite me to watch home movies of your Alaska vacation. Tell me I have to repeat my mammogram. But puh-leeze don’t take me to the mall. I don’t enjoy wandering like a lab rat. It would take a few strong men and ropes to get me near the mall from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. If I get to play in an English garden maze one day, then fine, I’ll play along. Department stores with their canned air and canned music should not attempt to imitate garden mazes. They miss the point of shopping by frustrating the shopper who knows what she wants and is ready to buy it. A frustrated shopper can go to catalogs, or online searches. Need it in a size 8 in azalea color? No problem, we have it in stock and can ship it in three to five business days. I’ll cheerfully pay extra for shipping just to save myself the hassle. I’ve found two clothing manufacturers who offer clothing from their inventory based on the body measurements, favorite colors and styles of the shopper.

I believe the future demands more made-to-order shopping. Furniture dealers often do this. A few car manufacturers do this. The technology exists to satisfy supply to meet demand. Of course, the technology also exists to build cars that last five times longer than they are now. Book publishers, clothing designers and more could save millions by creating supply to meet demand. I suppose this next development of human civilization will take place when our resources have dwindled to the point at which we cannot afford to waste metal, cloth, paper and other materials by trying to create demand from oversupply. Until then, if you see a teenager dragging a whimpering adult into the mall, think of me and remember that this, too, shall pass.