Avoiding Minefields at the Mall!

Another useless rant inspired by a recent trip to the mall.

I miss the days when shopping was fun, care free, even relaxing.  I used to enjoy meandering through a variety of stores in the mall or other shopping centers.  Perhaps I was oblivious in those days, but I don’t seem to remember being followed around the store as if I were some sort of thief planning my next shoplifting venture.  I could also walk through the mall in peace as there were no over-zealous kiosk vendors trying to lure me over to their stands.  I could make my purchase at the checkout counter without answering a gazillion questions before being allowed to actually pay for my products.   Unfortunately, this is no longer the case and these days I find shopping a stressful and generally unpleasant experience.

Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but I don’t understand why stores encourage their clerks to follow customers around as if they’re in pursuit of one of the FBI’s most wanted.  If they’re going to require their employees to police patrons, they should at least train them to do so with a bit more discretion.  It’s fairly obvious that you’ve been pegged as a potential criminal when a sales clerk suddenly pops up out of nowhere and asks if you need help despite the fact that you’ve been wandering around the store for some time with absolutely no other offers of assistance.  This usually occurs once I’ve picked up the item I’m looking for; I can only assume this serves as some kind of signal that I’m then going to stuff said item into my purse.  At this point, if I don’t leave the area in which I’m browsing, they suddenly decide this formerly neglected space needs a good tidying up and there they linger faffing and fluffing obviously waiting for me to make my shoplifting move.

As if the experience inside the store isn’t bad enough, it’s then time to venture outside into the mall which brings a whole other level of irritation – kiosk vendors.  Whoever allowed these people to set up in the middle of the mall needs to be voted off the island.  I understand people need to make a living, but they should at least do so in a less obnoxious manner.  Our mall kiosk vendors favor a more in your face sales tactic. Now all I can think about as I’m wandering from store to store is “DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT!” I try to ignore the guy claiming to have the latest and greatest hair straighteners; the woman with the miraculous self-massage gadget (not as salacious as it sounds); the young man touting the wonders of a brand new shoe polish; the people selling nail tonics; the group selling brand new anti-aging serums.  The number of people I have to avoid just to maneuver between stores keeps growing.  My mall trips are now marred by having to navigate a minefield of aggressive sales people trying to separate me from my hard earned money with their latest groovy gadgets.  Isn’t there some sort of mall government that can ban this type of behavior?  Clean up the minefields of money hungry sales people; pass some mall bill outlawing kiosks altogether?? I would love a return to the days when walking through the mall was a peaceful, stress free experience.

My biggest shopping pet peeve, the one that makes me want to dump my purchases at the cash register and walk out, is the number of questions I’m bombarded with before I can even get through the purchase.  Are you a member of our discount club? Would you like to become a member?  Can I have your phone number? Are you playing our latest in-store money saving game? Would you like to apply for our credit card and save 10% now?  When did making a simple purchase become such a chore? You’re getting my money, let me give it to you and then leave me the hell alone.  I particularly despise the phone number and credit card questions.  I usually tell them my number is unlisted, which it is.  Many store clerks appear put out by this response but I’m past the point of caring.  Although some claim this is for return purposes, I’ve never yet had to provide it when returning an item so I don’t actually know what stores do with my phone number once it’s entered into their system.  Some cashiers have also reacted quite churlishly when I refuse their offer to apply for a store credit card.  I’m guessing this is because they receive some sort of reward for every application they procure.   I’ve fallen into those “save 10% now” traps and it didn’t end well.  The 10% you save at the time is nowhere near worth the amount of interest you’ll pay later.  In my opinion, the stores and credit cards behind these offers have some responsibility in creating this crazy for credit country in which we live.   It is a temptation that is thrown in our faces almost every time we shop and, quite frankly, I don’t think it should be allowed.  I suppose people have to learn their own lessons but, if you have a problem with credit and you keep racking up store credit cards, this will be a very hard and expensive lesson to learn in the long run.

These days, I find myself avoiding the mall and shopping online more and more.  I know this has its own risks, but I’ll take it for now.  At least there are no amateur store detectives following you around, no obnoxious sales people shouting at you, and no one trying to pressure you into applying for credit cards you don’t need.  It’s open 24/7 and there are no crowds to contend with, all in all a perfect shopping scenario!

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