Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Day At The Mall

A Coca-Cola machine is backed up with miscarried beverages. The Mahogany cabinet surrounding it is incongruous to the pedestrian plastic device within. The second story rail serves as venue for waiting, resting, and observing. There is no surface on the rails on which to rest items. The wide rims of the plant pots are quite inviting seats. SEARS minus S reads EARS. The stairs are very narrow, much less convenient and inviting than the escalator. The elevator looks very boxy and squatty, and its short travel between the first and second floors is very anticlimactic and unimpressive. Some sort of hole in the ground is very tightly cordoned and sealed off with various brightly colored barriers. About half of the ceiling lights are off – they probably come on at night. The sports car featured at a sweepstakes display is not actually a prize in the sweepstakes. An advertisement states “Drive five supercars in a day for only $1495” in a seeming indication of a thrillseeking target customer with plenty of disposable income. The closer to Nordstrom, the more upscale the stores and environment appear

The Body Shop smells like gummy candy. The smells of cologne and perfume are overpowering, although some of them may be coming from the man behind me. The background noises of speech, music, and mechanical drones are loud. It is too loud to eavesdrop on conversations. It is almost too loud to even have conversations. Some sort of music is audible at just about every location in the mall. Sunlight through the roof gives an indication of the conditions outdoors, but the outdoors are not clearly visible from most locations. The sky can be seen in the Nordstrom wing – is this to make it a more attractive area?

A helmeted security guard rides a Segway. Another communicates by PDA. Neither of them makes me feel either intimidated or secure. A man briskly walks up the escalator, but casually rides it back down later. A girl wears a tank top in spite of the grisly scar on her shoulder. Many couples are holding hands, as if to display their close affiliation. Many men seem to be along for the ride, in tow behind women who appear to shop avidly. Several lone men wait outside stores that do not seem to cater to men’s needs. Libby Lu’s window is packed with elementary-aged girls in sparkly clothes striking poses. I hope I did not hurt their feelings by not waving back. Heavyset people comprise a significant proportion of the candy store population. A similar demographic appears in the market for cookie cakes. Many food court sitters are, in fact, not eating. Some are conversing, perhaps relieving their feet momentarily. One is studying, no mean feat amidst the din. A man carries a large cell phone on a lanyard around his neck as part of his fashionable ensemble. Nobody makes eye contact, probably in light of the huge amount of alternative visual information. This alternate fixation for the eyes alleviates the awkwardness of intersecting glances in a crowd, making navigation a somewhat less stressful experience. There is little to no thought for traffic taking the correct side of the “road.” People manage to disrupt the pedestrian flow by occasionally congregating in very busy places.

A computer monitor labeled “WORK COMPUTER NOT FOR FUN” is being used by a man who looks like he may be simultaneously doing work and having fun drawing the DC Comics logo. An entire cart is dedicated to Rosetta, a piece of translating software. It is packaged in boxes much larger than necessary to contain the CDs on which it is written. Sunglasses are tried on so frequently, one would think it compulsory. The guy tending a sunglasses cart is engrossed in a novel and does not seem to care when the cart is approached. One cart sells wigs and jewelry. Many of the vendor stands are redundant and sell the same things. It is difficult to travel too far in any direction without another cell phone service provider or, in some cases, the same one, trying to sell you its clearly critical wares. Verizon is charitable enough to offer a “Hurricane Special! All Activation Fees Waived!” Of the foreground objects in an Abercrombie and Fitch poster, clothing accounts for 4%. A nude male torso, 96%. The luggage store displays a suitcase with ornate chrome wheels – “rims” are not just for cars anymore. Paradise Pens carries an ornate metal tip that affixes to the top of a plain old pencil. Employees look askance at me when I enter a store with a backpack. The “Oriental” chair massage does a good job of appearing a relaxing respite. The urge to shop somehow grows after spending time in a mall.

Brookstone massage chairs seem to be test-driven more than they are actually bought. The man sitting on the bench next to me looks impatient and tired as he waits for his family to finish up in Brookstone. He absentmindedly taps his foot on the floor to the beat of some pervasive music, shaking the bench. In spite of my annoyance at this, I find myself tapping my foot, too. He finally gets up and joins his family in Brookstone. A salesman jumps on the opportunity to pitch a massage chair to this tired customer. The man smiles graciously.

Some of the booths and carts employ aggressive sales tactics, particularly those selling cell phones and cosmetics. The same T-Mobile salesman offers me their service twice within a span of a few minutes: “Sir, are you a T-Mobile customer yet?” I lie and tell him I am with a polite smile both times. I don’t think he caught on. Cosmetics salespeople don’t seem interested in peddling their product to me, no matter how close I walk.

64 percent of escalator riders ride with both of their feet on a single step. 23 percent ride with a staggered, two-step stance. 13 percent forgo the stationary approach altogether and walk the escalator as if it were stairs.

In spite of the even distribution of male and female customers claimed by Ms. Hedrick, I count a 67 percent female shopper population. For every male-specific store in the mall, nearly five are female-specific.

Mallgoers are somewhat evenly divided into four observable categories: families, couples, same-age groups (such as bunches of high schoolers), and lone shoppers. The largest group represented is families, with 29 percent of mallgoers shopping in the company of relatives. 24.5 percent of shoppers are couples, and the same proportion is same-age groups. Finally, 22 percent of shoppers take on the mall alone.

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