Tag Archives: Shopping

If You’ve Seen One Mall

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.

Not Mall Santas

Not Mall Santas

Big, Odd, Cheap

I don’t often go to big bargin bin stores, the kind of outlet that sell overruns, out of date, or unusually colored batches of various retail items. I don’t like to shop, and it is the kind of store that one must spend time in, searching for a bargain, rather than a specific item. Although I needed a specific item (the ever-exciting shelf liner), I knew that they usually had something that would work, so it was worth my time to stop when I was nearby today. I also wanted to see if I could find that stinky, smells so bad it likely is bad for you but covers those nasty bumps and bruises on dark woodwork furniture polish. I can’t seem to find it anywhere, so I was hoping that there was a forgotten bottle on a dusty shelf somewhere, an escapee from a toxic chemical purge event.

I avoid stores like this because I get lost in them. Yes they are large, but it isn’t a geographic disorientation. Sensory overload causes me to lose time and, if I stay too long, I lose a sense of equilibrium too. All of the bizarre items, placed wherever there seems to be room, call to me and I find myself looking at all sorts of things that I would never consider buying.

Multi-tasking has its appeal, but really? Who needs a steel-wool & micro-fiber dust cloth combo? What is the purpose of a long-handled brush that looks like a daisy designed by a toddler? I’ve never found a reason to have faux leaves on my toilet brush. But, is it really a toilet brush? Or is it a brush to suds up your back? It was next to the cleaners, but it doesn’t seem sized correctly. I found its purple sibling — same size, same design — near the shampoo and weirdly tinted body soap.

And then there are the odd lots, those lots where the dye on the packaging was wrong. The hazelnut and cocoa spread with the purple and gold labels, the suntan lotion in a pea green bottle. Perhaps for use when sunbathing near brackish water? Or the bottles that were special promotions. I don’t have any problems with buying a bottle of dishwashing liquid when the label had a much shorter shelf life than the product. But, I can’t help but think: what marketing flunky thought anyone would buy a “limited edition” Christmas themed bottle of detergent?

It is, however, only $2, a savings of about 80 cents. Who cares what it looks like? It’s soap, not a home decor statement. But, they likely won’t have any next time I need some.