The reluctant shopper: Buying in, but not selling out, to holiday shopping
"Dude, you raped Crate & Barrel!"
Looking down at my large shopping bag, a brand-new Dualit brand toaster tucked inside, I had to ask myself the same question, if not in those same words.
"Really," I wanted to ask the stray teenager who delivered his jibe somewhere between Spencer's and Hot Topic. "Did I?"
The parallels between rape and plunder with casual consumer shopping hadn't crossed my mind before. Hours after I finished my first trip ever through Murray's Fashion Place Mall, however, the comparison lingered, then it festered. Then it disintegrated into a guffaw while driving home with a modest bounty of Christmas shopping in the backseat of my car.
Like everyone who came of age during the 1980s, I harbor cherished memories of the mall. Show me the man who can't recall the vision of his teenage crush getting her ears pierced as he sipped the sugar-rush of an Orange Julius, and I'll show you a liar.
Sadly, not even the best memories can mask the fact that I grew up to become the kind of man who finds shopping tiresome.
The awkwardness of changing rooms and the migraine of parking are enough to drive a nonshopper like me to seek refuge with a Starbucks petite vanilla bean scone and cup of tea. Even then, I'm painfully aware of occupying an environment custom-designed to pry my wallet open with the next dreaded question of whether you "need help finding something." Regardless of the store, this interrogation masked as sales decorum is always delivered in a voice between rehearsed enthusiasm and forced motivation, a tone my grandmother once described as, "I'm happy even if my dog dies. What's your problem?"
For me, mail-order catalog and online shopping became links to an ever-alien world. Panic ran deep, then, when my editor told me to shop "for real," then write about it.
Yet, despite my assignment to serve as the reluctant shopper, fulfilling it proved easier than thought, not because shopping is in fact fun, but because it's the story of America.
Accounting for an estimated 70 percent of all U.S. economic activity, shopping is the adrenaline of our highest dreams and aspirations, the dark after-party reckoning of our personal excesses, and the eagerly hoped-for resurrection of better times just around the corner.
Led by the expert hand of Celeste Dorris, general manager of Fashion Place Mall, the aisles opened up in no time. In dulcet tones, Dorris told me Fashion Place was Utah's most "productive mall," yielding more sales per square foot, hands down, than any comparable mall its size.
With needs coming before wants, the first-in-Utah, newly opened Crate & Barrel was my first stop. My family's current toaster was so full of unshakable crusts, it was something of a fire hazard. The Dualit toaster on display, and designed in West Sussex, U.K., spoke not only by virtue of its gentle, rounded edges, but also for the mere thought that buying it might improve the British economy.
Economist Adam Smith's "invisible hand" became a matter of the heart, not just sales receipts. The thought of simultaneously benefiting from a safer toaster and helping the victims of British government austerity measures seemed too good to pass up.
H&M, the Swedish clothes retailer, was an altogether different kettle of fish. With scores of women rifling clothes racks to the thick beat of dance music, just walking through the store felt like crashing a sorority-house party. It helped that I was shopping for my daughter, and with shirts for a mere $5.95, prices were right. The next time someone criticizes Sweden as "socialist," feel free to laugh in their face. On the evidence of H&M, plus IKEA, no one else beats them for retail.
My remaining visit was punctuated by near-purchase experiences throughout the mall. A visit to Orange Julius seemed mandatory. The nostalgia was sweet, even if you swap a Julius Original for water. A $199 chance to buy a "Chizzler" jacket at North Face almost succeeded in prying my wallet open with a crowbar. Like gravity, the pull was strong. Retail marketing, with its myriad ways to close the sale, is almost a science.
Even for a reluctant in-store shopper like me, a trip to the mall brought respect for the activity that drives our economy. After all, if nothing is holier than retail sales figures, some might consider shopping malls our modern temples.
What kind of a holiday shopper are you?
As the holiday buying season launches in earnest, we explored a staff's worth of shopping personalities. Four reporters each completed a local shopping assignment, which translated into four very different accounts of their adventures. Like a retail Rorschach test, we offer reports from one reluctant and one enthusiastic shopper, and from one do-gooder and one surplus shopper. Happy Black Friday, indeed!
Mall shopping for the rest of us
Flip Flop Shops
Your one-stop shopping for all things thong foot things, that is including SanÃ¼k, Havaianas and Flujos brand casual footwear. The store interior mimics well the feel of a bamboo hut, with sun-drenched roof. This is the store for land-locked surfers and anyone else allergic to shoelaces.
Location • 6191 S. State St., Fashion Place Mall, Murray
Hours • Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays, noon-6 p.m.
Contact • 801-268-3547, http://www.flipflopshops.com
The Art of Shaving
This store features all a gentleman might want in shaving gear, including badger-hair shaving brushes, the finest in blades and electric shavers, and a full line of aftershave scents and treatments. Plus, there's a barbershop in back where you can get an expert shave or haircut.
Location • 6191 S. State St., No. 1665, Fashion Place Mall, Murray
Hours • Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays, noon-6 p.m. Barber takes appointments Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m.-7-p.m.; Sundays, noon-6 p.m.
Contact • 801-713-5020, http://www.theartofshaving.com
Anything you could want from hot water and fragrant tea leaves, and then some. The scent of a fresh brew permeates this small store throughout, while you browse through teas familiar (oolong, black, green) and not-so-familiar (dessert teas and exotic matÃ©s). After finishing your sample, browse the store's selection of tea finery, including authentic cast-iron kettles and sleek, modern thermoses especially built for your brew.
Location • 6191 S. State Street, Fashion Place Mall, Murray
Hours • Open daily, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Contact • 801-281-9573, http://www.teavana.com
A one-stop shopping zone for the tween, teen and beyond looking for the latest in snowboard, skateboard and general street-wear genre. Back-to-back hip-hop songs complement every Neff brand item on display, with sports gear in back, and a full array of Nixon and G-Shock watches. If you can't find something in here for your teenager, you're not even trying.
Location • 6191 S. State St., Fashion Place Mall, Murray
Hours • Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays, noon-6 p.m. Hours week before Christmas, Mondays-Saturdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Contact • 801-262-8284; http://www.zumiez.com.