In early September, I was driving through a commercial area in Pensacola, Florida with my son. “Except for the names on some of the restaurants, we could be near Greenwood Mall” I said, referring to the mall on the south side of town where we never go. By “never” I mean that I haven’t been in at least the last ten years — maybe not even this century.
But, it could have been the mall near our home too. There was just some intangible feeling about the self-proclaimed “Hillbilly Riviera” that seemed like the south side of my town.
Inside Dillard’s, I thought that I could have just as easily been inside a Macy’s. I’m sure that the Dillard’s and Macy people wouldn’t like to hear this, but it’s true. When I’ve been in Macy’s in New York, I’ve thought that if I’d been plopped down there without seeing the city, I could just have easily guessed that I was in the former Fields store in Chicago — and it has nothing to do with it now being a Macy’s.
Maybe it is because I really dislike shopping, but it seems to me that all stores seem alike. Perhaps that is why Wal-Mart has the bright yellow smiley faces and Target has the big red circles hanging all over their stores. Without them, people like me might forget what store they were in. Not that it matters, much. My brain is usually so addled by the music, the displays, the crying kids, and the ding-ding-ding of the cash registers that I often forget why I am in the store. Nevermind which store it is.
I thought I would thwart the mall demons this year by shopping online. But, one item was not available online for shipping. Oddly, Amazon had it in stock but marked it as “No Ship”. How you purchase something from a virtual store without shipping is something that I didn’t want to waste brainpower pondering. In-store pickup seemed the next best option. I placed my order, carefully read the received instructions for pickup and waited for an email telling me the item was in. I had no intention of picking it up over the weekend, so I waited until I could get to the mall on a slow, weekday afternoon.
The mall isn’t far from my house, only a few miles. But I used to work in that area and going to the mall means traveling through the busiest intersection in the city. This is not an area to travel to in December just for fun. It is only undertaken with intent and with a plan, preferably one that involves a rapid getaway. I thought I had just enough time to accomplish my task before the rush hour hit: 10 minutes travel, 5 – 10 minutes in the store, 5 minutes to get out of the mall parking lot, home in 35-45 minutes tops.
But I forgot about Bad Mall Karma.
The line at the electronics store was not lengthy and the wait was not unreasonable. However — you knew there would be a however, didn’t you? — the item pictured on the box was HOT PINK. This is not the color of an electronic gizmo that would belong to my son. It isn’t the color of anything that I would want either. I’m talking Neon, Day-Glo PINK! I was crestfallen. Where did my plan go wrong?
“Please tell me you have it in grey. I’m pretty sure that is what I ordered.”
The clerk looked quizzically at his invoice and I stared at my receipt. “Grey!” I said excitedly, pointing to the form at the same moment that he said “Pink!” and pointed to the printed description. Twenty minutes later and what was either a lengthy smoke break out back or an archeological dig in the store room, the clerk returned to the counter. “I’m sorry Mam, but there isn’t another one in the store.”
“Not in any other color?”
“This is the only one. And it IS pink. Our system is wrong. You did order the right thing, but I’ll find one and have it shipped to you. I promise.” Ah! Promises are easy; order fulfillment is not.
It took another 10 minutes for him to determine that the system would not allow him to ship this item or transfer it to another store. This was especially perplexing given that the boxed item weighs about a pound and would easily fit in my purse.
The end result? They put one on hold for me at the Greenwood Mall, 30 miles away. I trekked down there this morning. It’s been updated since the last time that I was there – a few more stores, a bit more congestion. But you know what? Except that it is 12 hours closer, it could have just as easily been that mall in Pensacola. I hear it is a lot warmer down there now, though.
I now have my electro-gizmo-gadget thingy in grey. Maybe I should have just scheduled it for store pickup where my son now lives and avoided the mall hassle. But then it wouldn’t have been wrapped. I’m sure I have some paper somewhere. Now if only those elves would get busy wrapping.