Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Shopping is a mind bender.

by metavision Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 05:28:56 AM EST

A British friend called to go to lunch and shop for clothes out of town on Saturday and I decided to go because a meal with a friend and a ride in the countryside is an enjoyable day.  We had met teaching English to management types in a global consulting firm and even if we have very different views, we became friends as two outsiders looking in:  As recent arrivals observing Spain, as ex-corporates peeking into a super-corporate, etc.  (Their 30-story building burned down and neither of us was questioned by the police,  but we have our own theories.)

Although I grow more shopping-averse every week, I enjoy looking and watching without feeling any compulsion.  We drove SW, out of town and passed the windowless, industrial block, shopping malls to get to a place that could have been an ecovillage, if the parking lot had been 1% of its size and had some windows facing it.  At least in its south side.

From the diaries -- whataboutbob


I was almost homesick when I saw it because it was a carbon copy of a factory outlet center in Castle Rock, Colorado!  A parking lot circling cutesy buildings in a loop, nice walkways with baby trees, only one set of bathrooms and no place to sit unless you were consuming.  Once inside, you cannot see any motor vehicle, which helps people focus only on the merchandise.  We discussed all the unused second story spaces that would make perfect, small apartments in this carless world, but they are only cathedral ceilings with prettyfied windows.

There was only one place for lunch in that complex and it was a chain, but turned out to be really good.  I don´t want to make simplistic deductions, but I noticed that the space was well thought out for the public, the menu was very varied and trendy, the quality of the food was good and all the employees were South American.  I got a sense that employees were treated reasonably well there because they had good attitudes, even in a noisy Spanish crowd, and that´s not usually the case for food service employees.

My friend still believes that "factory outlet" implies saving money, but I have found that 95% of the merchandise in these places is not discounted at all and it takes hours of digging to find value.  Most of the shops were clothing with global brand names and it is really difficult to know which represent quality and durability anymore.  Another invasive detail that has become accepted, is the English naming on the centers, on the shops and many items that have an easy translation.  The old "foreign is good" is alive and well in Spain.

People seemed to concentrate very hard, to find and fit into the most copied, poor quality, uninventive, sometimes hideous clothes.  In a setting micro-designed just to sell, it is easy to forget about value or appropriateness.  Almost as if leaving the place without a new outfit, would have been a personal failure.  (What´s wrong with me that the more clothes I see, the more I like what I have?)  In a bubbling economy with a blaring media, Spain now includes plastic surgery in the consumer price index.  (Heard this month...)

My addictive streak came out when I saw a V & B china shop and I got the "I must have one stunning, new dish", but like most times, nothing stunned me.  I went to an old, Spanish brand, sock shop that used to stand for quality and I was really disappointed that they carry the lowest standard, undifferentiated stuff from any euro shop.

We stayed away from clothes designers and places with pounding music, but I did fall for a few things:  A couple of small dishes from a renowned, French cookery shop, a pair of winter leotards and a cushion cover for the shredded one on my desk chair.  These are things I would have never missed if I had not gone there, but I chose them because I liked them, they were very good values and will give me pleasure.  My friend, who actually "needed" clothes, found nothing and probably didn´t really need them, either.  

I politely refused the branded shopping bags and carried the stuff in my folding, reusable one because I will not provide free publicity, or bring more useless stuff home.  For decades now, I have had this aversion to wearing somebody else´s name on my person, and so far no brand has offered to pay me to wear it, either.

If I don´t see a pair of jeans in the next year, it will be soon enough.  I could use a second pair, but they may not make what I call jeans anymore.  The look and feel of those I saw, with their questionable, fabric-percentage and origin tags, could almost drive me .... back to polyester knit.

We walked around for about three hours after lunch and ended up missing the chocolate factory, a cooking utensil shop, the fancy underwear shops and the perfume maker.  By that time, the sensory overload had done its damage and I felt stressed, cranky, unable to focus, dazed and tired.  I will avoid any non-essential shopping for at least six months.
.............
Nobody here will admit giving up on the ideal of the small shop, but in practice these mega malls located on all corners of cities, have accomplished their goals.  There isn´t a train, nor a bus in sight, because the public transit crowd would probably search for value....  They obviously know that most people have a car and they will shop wherever they can park!  The false claim of "one-stop shopping".  

Another goal seems to be to create the perception of a country outing for city dwellers, especially those with small children.  The fact that shopping is not a childhood activity is considered irrelevant and now parents allow 4-year olds to act as uneducated consumers on a regular basis.

I hope these dazing-and-dozing centers will disappear in the EU´s next quarter century.  

So getting down to personal policy we can control:  Is your shopping car-driven?  Where do you shop for occasional items?  Where do you not?  How often do you buy items that you find are poor quality and have to buy again?  How much e-shopping do you do?  Comparisons, ideas, improvements, solutions, ...revolutions?

Display:
Ah,a topic close to my heart.
It occured to the wife and I that America doesn't sell what we are looking for.
I don't care about free ring tones for the cell phone I will never own.
I don't care to talk financial "strategy" with a twenty-something at the local Bank of America branch which is a converted gas station.
I don't need a second mortgage from "Bobs" mortgage company.
I don't do "half de-cafe-latte with a twist of....(Starbucks).  It warmed my heart to see the EU in fact did not embrace the American concept of brands, as this too is a hollow empty bucket, a marketing ploy devoid of any cultural recognition.
Yes, I saw the real Disney castle, it's in Bavaria and it's light years ahead of the plastic one in Orlando.
BTW, Orlando it seems has become a sort of Satanic capital of the world, metaphysically speaking.  Why?
Well, because I, the Lasthorseman, the one who wants the last horse ride before the Christian Biblical Apocalypse says so.
Disney it seems has taken the responsibilty of accepting fingerprints as ID for entrance to their "theme park".  That is support of the technology of the anti-christ.
Plus I found the real castle in it's original setting far more impressive.
by Lasthorseman on Sat Mar 24th, 2007 at 10:59:30 PM EST
sinking into slavery, it is the WILLINGNESS that boggles the mind.  

has taken the responsibilty of accepting fingerprints as ID for entrance to their "theme park  

No free person would visit or support a place like that.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sat Mar 24th, 2007 at 11:46:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Buy one. Get one free.

It's not slavery if it's bought with a credit card, is it?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 05:59:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly not. And you know that you're rich when your chains are gold.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 06:31:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Willingness is a good word for it and everytime the subject of consumerism comes up, people pelt me with arguments of "free choice"!  They insist they go to these places because they are "free to choose" and if I don´t like them, that´s MY problem.

Most of the time, I am a minority of one insisting that by the time they pile in the car, they basically have no choice left.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 06:15:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, the Neuschwanstein castle of Ludwig II, King of Bavaria!



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 06:15:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent and thank you.
Now isn't that setting far better?
And you don't have to get fingerprinted to see it.  A hearty salute too goes to the guy who drives the bus up that road.  You are good, very good.
by Lasthorseman on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 08:42:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It occured to the wife and I that America doesn't sell what we are looking for.
I don't care about free ring tones for the cell phone I will never own.
I don't care to talk financial "strategy" with a twenty-something at the local Bank of America branch which is a converted gas station.
I don't need a second mortgage from "Bobs" mortgage company.
I don't do "half de-cafe-latte with a twist of....(Starbucks).  It warmed my heart to see the EU in fact did not embrace the American concept of brands, as this too is a hollow empty bucket, a marketing ploy devoid of any cultural recognition.
Yes, I saw the real Disney castle, it's in Bavaria and it's light years ahead of the plastic one in Orlando.
For me, this is a very odd statement.  On the one hand, I too don't want or buy anything that is listed above--except the occassional latte, of which the first one I ever bought was in Normandy in 1988.  but America has all of the things I want to buy.  and there are other americans who do want lattes and cell phones with rings,,,,and I don't find anything wrong with that.  I don't judge them, it's their life and their choices,,,,and it doesn't prevent me from finding what I want.
by wchurchill on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 05:27:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A few weeks ago, I got into a discussion, verging on argument, about Philadelphia pretzels.  

The somewhat arcane backstory is this:  Years ago, when I lived in Philadelphia, I was introduced (being a newcomer) to "Philadelphia pretzels."  These were warm, soft pretzels sold from carts on street corners, having large chunks of salt (like for melting snow, practically) and always served with mustard. They were quite good.  

The argument entailed whether these were really "New York" pretzels--apparently in New York there is something similar, though not quite the same, and further whether they were like something that is now very popular called "Mall pretzels" which are served from kiosks in shopping malls everywhere.  

Being too old to make a spur-of-the moment day trip (all the way to) New York to find out what "New York" pretzels were like, we settled for a suburban mall trip to check out "Mall pretzels" instead.  

I won't try to describe the mall trip, as you have caught the essence.  It was just weird.  But the high point was getting to compare the "very popular" mall pretzels with what I used to get in Philadelphia.  Well:  They were dipped in "butter"--an artificially and disgustingly flavored liquid grease--and were not soft, but soggy and limp, through and through.  

They weren't cheap either.  

The mustard for the pretzels was like out of an airline plastic package, mixed with mayonaise! from same plus vinegar:  Thoroughly disgusting in its own right.  

It cost extra.  

I think there is no way to explain this, without assuming people are just mind-dead.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 12:16:33 AM EST
Mall pretzels are hit or miss. You can get decent ones, but they do tend towards soggy ang gross unfortunately.

There are several smallish chain breweries that have (I think) the style of pretzels you're talking about as a bar snack / appetizer. I really liked the ones at Capitol City Brewery in the DC area. They were always chewy on the outside, soft on the inside and came with abundant mustard that IIRC they actually made on site from mustard and horseradish. Yummy.

by R343L (reverse qw/ten.cinos@l343r/) on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 11:39:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
shopping is where people go to herd, rub shoulders and reassure each other that showing up to fellate the corporate stockholders and suck on the barbiturate tit of mammon, is the thing to do...warm, cosy, mmmm, comfortably numb....deeper.....pseudo death-experience... thanatic orgy, grim and joyless, baked in the shiny, icy glare of soulsapping anti-light, slow-roasted with a muzak glaze...

i love shopping too

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 06:27:59 AM EST
Whatever I say in discussions seems to be chinese to others, so I will have to memorize your paragraph and quote it; I´ll see if that works.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 06:58:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I love shopping and I hate malls!

I love open air markets and we have several wonderful ones in Lyon. But I live in the city centre and I don't have a car...

I love oriental souks, too...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 06:28:05 AM EST
Moving out of the city center was probably the worst decision I made and I have to correct it because buying a car is not a good choice.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 07:01:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can imagine how much we're anticipating moving closer to the city again! Technically, it's only a mile or so closer, but it's so close to the commuter train service that it should be a matter of wandering out of bed on a Saturday morning, grabbing a quick coffee and a shower and staggering onto the train for breakfast and shopping in the city centre - which is the only place there's a decent market within practical distance. We should even be able to bring the dogs.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 09:32:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really liked shopping (or window-shopping) in Dublin's city centre (also in Dun Laoghaire).

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 09:43:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You really, really don't want to know what they're doing to the Khan al-Khalili....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 08:18:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Alas, I've never been there. But I remember my childhood in Morocco...



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 09:16:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, is that the Djemaa al-Fnaa?  Nice.  Alas, the Khan has no snake charmers or storytellers, but it does have a fairly similar general atmosphere.  Both are far too touristy in the main sections for me.  But at the Khan, although most of the souq is the same as it ever was, there are several buildings that have been gutted inside and "renovated" into what amounts to mini shopping malls.  It's awful.

That said, the awful tourist kitch is only a few winding alleyways away from the real sections of the souq, which are much more appealing.  And even the main tourist section has some great stuff buried in amidst the plastic souvenir geegaws....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 11:19:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Columbia Road flower market, near Shoerditch, London, on a Sunday morning followed by a wander down Brick Lane.

THAT'S shopping!

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 07:06:39 AM EST
Amen, brother!

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 07:22:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just try the Saturday morning marché in Aix-en Provence...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 07:38:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 09:27:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<mutters of incoherent jealousy>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 09:33:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yeah, markets in the open air are a whole different story.

malls are where one can see what interesting new tech has surfaced to the consumer market level, i'll give 'em that.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 07:17:56 AM EST
I grew up in shopping malls.  It's not hard to do, not for people my age, not in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.  My early memories of the mall were focused aroudn two things - the pizza joint in the food court, and the arcade.  That was back in the early 80's, before delivery pizza hit it big, and you still had lots and lots of little restaurants all over that specialized in pizza.  I think the pieces were square, and were served on paper plates on plastic trays.  The mall also had a McDonalds, but we didn't go there very much.  The pizza was better.

Ah, the arcade, one of my favorite places in my youth.  Every visit to the mall, it was always a question of, "Are we going to get pizza this time, and how many quarters can I get for the arcade?"   The actual shopping was awful.  As an ornrey little kid, I didn't much enjoy it at all, having to stand around and wait while my mom looked at stuff, or occasionally having to go try stuff on in the annoying little fitting rooms that never had any place to sit.

There was a toy store in the mall, of which I have fond memories.  We didn't buy stuff there that often, occasionally a model or a star wars figure, but I always enjoyed going in to look at stuff.  One year I entered a model painting contest with a model dinosaur, and managed to get an honorable mention.  That was my most prized tropy for many, many years.

One only entered the Sherman Oaks Galleria through the multi-level parking lot.  Each level had a different color.  Later, MUCH later, I learned that there was actually a way to enter the building from the street.  There was a quite nice walkway, flanked with some trees and whatnot, and an escalator that went down to the bus stop on the main street.  This was an older mall, and didn't have the acres of parking on ever side.

As I got older, the mall changed.  One year they remodeled the food court area, and it was never quite the same.  The pizza place dissapeared, but the arcade got bigger.  My mom took me to movies now and then, usually in the mornings on weekends, when it was cheaper.  During the early 90's there was a boom in collectible card games, and for a while the mall sported two stores that carried Magic : The Gathering.  I spent a fair deal of time looking at the expensive rare cards out on display, talking with the store clerks about cards, discussing strategies, etc.

But by this point, the mall was already in decline.  The consolidation in department store chains had resulted in the two main anchors for the mall being owned by the same company, Robinson's May, and it was simply not viable.  Perhaps because of its ill health, the department stores often had good clearance sales on pants and whatnot.  I went often enough that I knew the normal prices, and could tell when a sale was actually a sale, or just a gimmick.

In its waning days, the Galleria was a ghost town. Stores closed, and they were not replaced.   The food court was still there, remodeled once again, bright and airy under the glass atrium roof, and I remember going there to study every so often.  The movie theater remained to the end, but not much else did.  It was kind of sad and empty, but it always felt like home.  

Then came the inevitable.  The mall was closed.  It simply couldn't compete with larger, newer malls, and there was no way to expand it.  A new plan for the space was drawn up, where most of the space was remade into offices.  Some of it was allocated to a new mega theater, and some to a few new restaurants on the old walkway that was once the pedestrian entrance.  I went there once, and didn't stay very long.

by Zwackus on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 09:25:42 AM EST
Nostalgia isn't anymore what it used to be...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 09:32:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ahhh, thank you for the flashback (another Valley person here).

There was a multistory Tower Records in the Galleria for a few years, but they closed all their stores (WAAAAHHH!!) last year. I haven't been back to LA for a while and haven't asked anyone what's become of the mall in the past few months.

Even at its height, the Galleria was full of chain stores. Only difference is the stores themselves were a little funkier and more individualistic than what you'll find in chains today. One of the malls I used to go to was the Encino Town and Country, more of a shopping courtyard than a mall, but it was filled with  unique shops, not a lot of chains. But every time I went there, it seemed people concentrated mostly on the movie theater and The Nutty Choclatier (entertainment and candy, I can't wait to hear the comments). T&C was remodeled a few years later with large stores like Strouds (linens) and Super Crown (Crown Books' attempt to fight off the new, super-sized Bookstar), and then it seemed to pull in bigger crowds. Disappointing, because they closed the smaller places, which were really kind of neat. (Although in defense of all the people who went to The Nutty Choclatier, that was a great chocolate shop.)

All the sense memories are coming back (the bus stop on Ventura Blvd, Licorice Pizza [an excellent record shop, not a pizzeria], Heaven, with its logo with two retro-'50s faces...). I remember faithfully saving my allowance every month so I could go to LP and buy a record or a bunch of singles.

by lychee on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 11:30:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah yes.  The Galleria.  I remember when it was the brand-new hippest place to shop in the entire Valley.  (Which tells you how old I am!  ;-)  Only went there a couple of times when visiting a friend - a shop till you drop kinda guy - who lived within walking distance.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 12:34:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, you have the shopping experience and now you see the negative parts about malls.  What would you change about them?  How would you make them into a sustainable, non-numbing place to shop?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 03:16:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have the obnoxious habit of asking irritating but deeply fascinating questions.  ;-)  

Short answer:  Beats the hell outta me.

Land use patterns in the US dictates shopping is rigorously secluded from residental areas.  City transportation policies dictate the automobile is God and all must bow before it.  Construction of shopping malls has degraded such that the buildings are only expected to last for 20 years.  As the McMansions of suburbia expand ever further from the 'urb' the economic value of the underlying Real Estate declines.  

But the cost (valuation) of properties in the city itself have declined even further.  

So, does it make more sense to spend the money  re-invigorating the city?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 03:43:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Moi?  I am convinced I have earned that right. ;)

Malls:  
get those _ flourescent lights off me,
put some windows in those walls so I can see what time of day it is,
stop herding me with your __ lines on the floor,
give me some real choice of qualities and materials and not the same 3? manufacturers with 300 different brand names,
call things by their real names,
turn down the musak,
do not ever make something beep at me,
....
and I won´t say what they can do with land use patterns and valuations ´cause I have manners.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 04:04:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First step, in the US at least, stop spending the money required to drive the sprawl. For example, rolling over the dollar value of developments should be on a hectare by hectare basis above a certain value of development (say, $5m). Then instead of looking to roll over gains into every larger plots of low value land, developers that want to get the tax break have to find ways to persistently increase the underlying value per hectare of the property they are developing ... and doing that requires finding was to concentrate and cluster development.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 05:02:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not sure if I understand the same thing you do by "concentrate and cluster".  To me it means communities that combine housing and basic shopping at a pedestrian level, i.e., non-suburbia.  Once you separate the sleeping areas and the shopping areas, you´re stuck in a car.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 05:10:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure if I entirely agree with the premise of your question here, in that I really have trouble imagining the situation being a whole lot better.

I like flourescent lighting.  I realize I may be the only person on Earth to say that, but it's true.  Incandescents are dim and annoying.  You can't see colors properly because they are usually too dim, they glare in the wrong ways, and they're hot.  Flourescents are also MUCH more energy efficient.  Of course, natural lighting is quite nice.  One of my favorite features about the Galleria, and a couple other malls in the Valley, was that the main galleries were naturally lit via atrium windows in the roof.  The Northridge Fashion Plaza even had trees and fountains.  Sadly, even in LA, natural lighting is not always available . . . for example, at night.

I never shop at anything BUT big department stores, or the occasional chain store, because the smaller the store, the more expensive the merchandise, and the less likely it is that they will have something that fits me.  Independent stores can't survive on a low-margin volume sale strategy, and I've never been in a position to afford much that's not sold on such a strategy.

My clothing purchases are routinely made from two or three brands, anyway.  The periodically cheap brands which are not terribly low-quality.  For some items I am willing to pay for better quality/fit.  I used to but custom-made shirts from Lands End, because I could never get dress shirts to fit me right.  I lost some weight recently, though, so no that's not a problem.  In stores, finding actual high-quality, built to last merchandise is almost impossible, because in my experience almost nobody is willing to pay for it.  There are a few items for which I am a real stickler on this point (shoes being the main example), yet nobody I know ever wants to listen to my advice because it would inevitably mean that they pay more.  They'd rather buy 5 pairs of crappy shoes rather than one nice one.  The culture of disposability is such that there is only a marginal, remnant market for anything that's not-disposable, it seems.  And so, chain stores carry goods with varying levels of disposability, because when presented with a choice, that's what most people buy.

It would be really, really nice if malls were better integrated into "community" settings, with walkable streets, nearby housing, etc.  There was actually a fair bit of housing next door to or across the street from the Galleria . . . low-rent apartment buildings.  A friend of mine lived in one.  We walked to the Galleria from his place a few times.  The thing you come to understand by doing that even once is just how utterly and completely pedestrian hostile the entire built environment is today.  Everything in the Valley was built with the car in mind.  The streets are car-sized (2-4 lanes each direction), the stores are surrounded by parking (5 minute walk to cross from the sidewalk, usually), the crosswalks are a quarter to a half mile separated from each other, etc.

Fixing that would require almost complete demolition and reconstruction.  Maybe if I was global overlord and had UNLIMITED POWER (MUAHAHAHAHAHA!) it could be accomplished (through the unceasing toil of my faithful minions!  MUAHAHAHAHA!).  The problem is that you would have to re-build on a truly massive scale,  with multi-year integrated plans costing in the billions.  To make them really viable, you'd have to link such re-constructed areas together with rail.  

For the record, nowadays I make almost all of my clothing purchases online, because I live in Japan and nobody reall stocks much of anything my size.  I'm tall.

by Zwackus on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 07:23:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be really, really nice if malls were better integrated into "community" settings, with walkable streets, nearby housing, etc.  There was actually a fair bit of housing next door to or across the street from the Galleria . . . low-rent apartment buildings.  A friend of mine lived in one.  We walked to the Galleria from his place a few times.  The thing you come to understand by doing that even once is just how utterly and completely pedestrian hostile the entire built environment is today.  Everything in the Valley was built with the car in mind.  The streets are car-sized (2-4 lanes each direction), the stores are surrounded by parking (5 minute walk to cross from the sidewalk, usually), the crosswalks are a quarter to a half mile separated from each other, etc.

Yet the lights were rather long. I never had trouble getting around on foot in the Ventura Blvd area.

But you bring up something interesting. As much of a testament to consumerism as they were, malls like the Galleria, Northridge Fashion Center, and this big one out in Century City (can't remember the official name) were actually well-situated. All of them were surrounded by lots of housing and on major bus lines. There were often other shopping areas nearby, including "necessary" shopping such as grocery stores (Ventura, for example; it was ridiculously easy as a carless teenager for me to get from Tarzana to Studio City, either by foot or by bus [for those who've never been to LA, this is about 10 miles or 16 km]).

Compare that to the shopping centers built in newer developments, and you often can't just walk a few blocks to get to it (at least in SoCal) -- even if you live nearby, you have to walk out of the housing development (condo complex, planned community, whatever), onto a manicured street that holds nothing but views of the sides of housing and maybe a noise-reduction wall, stay on it for a loooong time, and then go around the housing development and into the massive parking lot. All to reach a grocery store that you could see two blocks from your small patio. The distance may still be manageable, but you feel completely cut off.

But to get back to Metavision's question, "fixing" the whole mall experience may involve a regression. Used to be that you could go into a store, chain or not (and I agree with you, chains are mostly where I shop too, for the same reasons), and the people who worked there knew their product. Not just as salespeople; as an example, I used to work in a bookstore that was part of a chain. Dress code was "nothing ripped," and we were considered by the managers to be co-workers there to earn money for rent or school (in other words, like people). It wasn't unusual for the district manager to come in and chat with everyone for a couple of hours about general stuff. When we were done stocking the shelves, we could sit behind the counter and read if there were no customers. This meant that we knew what books might suit which customers looking for recommendations, and our customers would freely tell us which books they had liked or disliked and we could pass that on to other customers.

A few years later, the chain changed its policies. We could no longer read behind the counter; we had to look busy, sweeping the floor, cleaning counters, straightening shelves. Conversations were more of a "stockroom" occurrence, and suddenly we were representatives of the company. Much more impersonal, and our fun place to work summer after summer became just another retail hell job. And it showed in how the customers treated us.

My point is that we were taken away from the "neighborhood store" concept and placed in this Muzak-drenched (yes, we had Muzak) "experience." This seems to have happened at most stores I go to. I think being a "regular" somewhere attracts a lot of people, and the relationship that forms between them and the workers can really change stores for the better. There's more communication about what works (in retail, you'll always have jackass customers and bored employees, but you can at least try to have less of both), and that in turn can improve the quality of the products. The customers are more wiling to speak up, and the stores more willing to listen.

And by the way, Land's End clothing is really good.

And if any of you need a book to read: The Eight, by Katharine Neville. We recommended this one so many times that after a few years, people would tell us we'd already recommended it to them and they needed another one. ^-^

by lychee on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 09:32:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminds me of a relative. 'X' used to work in a record store, then rose into management, then when the company was ruined a few years after the regime change, had to return behind the counter -- but X was conent with it, having a great knowledge of classical music and available records and faithful customers remembering X after years. A few years later, the store was remodeled, and X was relocated into the classical music section of another music store in a mall. (X can be considered working poor, lives in a plattenbau.)

Early this year, the owner started a new project: a record store next to a cinema in another mall. So X's store was to be closed with almost all workers fired, and only those to be kept who take on mixed shifts: some days music store by day, some days cinema until after midnight. X is retirement age, this would have been hell.

However, then an article appeared in a literature weekly, bemoaning the closure of the music store in the first mall, in particular the classical music section, and named X by name, as someone who can guess what kind of record a customer is looking for the moment s/he enters the shop. Probably as effect of this, a few days later X got a new, personalised offer, that not only no more demanded work in the cinema, but the same pay for 6 instead of 8 hours work a day!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 10:11:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, Land's End really is wonderful.  Of late, I've become particularly fond of their Clearance/Outlet section, where I can find sometimes rather bizarre looking sport coats or shirst for next to nothing.  A solid lambswool blazer for $60?  Sure, it's something like sky blue, with a strange reddish/browninsh plaid pattern.  Who cares.  I'm in Japan, where everything goes and pretty much any Western style, no matter how tacky or outdated, is new and interesting.

And, their clothes really are wonderfully made.

by Zwackus on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 10:49:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I´m also a Land´s End believer, plus LLBean, Gaiam and many other ´buy green´/´buy blue´ places for home and garden.  Now there are starting to be more choices in ´natural´ cotton and hemp (rawganique?)clothing, too.  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Tue Mar 27th, 2007 at 07:54:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I deal with my clothing needs by adopting a kind of uniform look of 'coloured tshirt' + 'somewhat baggy pants with pockets' + 'fleece something when colder'. I am lucky to be in a line of work where dressing down is the norm. I buy this stuff at the local mall, which is a pretty hideous place to visit. But there are a few stores that reliably seems to stock what I am after. I hate the idea of fashion. I don't mind varying how I look only according to a few parameters. (Like colour of the tshirt...) There is a great store in the mall called Switcher. They sell the same tshirt in 20 colours with no brand logo or stupid text. The pants are always more difficult. I have yet to find a steady supplier for exactly the same model of pants in several colours that would be reliably available each year. Ideally all these clothes should be available from the same internet company. To be reordered twice a year or so... But absent the ideal solution, I can make the mall work for me. I never visit more than 3 or 4 stores and mostly find what I came for.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 09:35:07 AM EST
The idea of buying online from reliable suppliers has to become the norm.  I had a list of quality brands in the US, but in Europe I don´t and I have simplified my lifestyle a lot, so I buy even less.

Another form of shopping that hopefully will take over the malls is the local coop.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 03:33:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, I confess: I went to the mall yesterday, because I had to buy to some software from the Apple store!  I could've gone to CompUSA, but that would've made for a longer drive.  But I absolutely share the hatred of malls, probably because I find the entire teenage status-seeking scene that is always inherent to malls to be so nauseating.  (Is it a sign that I'm getting old when I start feeling the urge to tell younger girls to put some fucking clothes on, and younger guys to pull their God-damned pants up, when I go there?)  It's not the chains that bother me so much, so long as the chains I like stick around.  Keep Apple and American Eagle in the mall, or somewhere nearby, and I won't have a problem.

I never shopped at them, since I was never there for a long period, but I always enjoyed walking through the sort of mini-markets in London's immigrant neighborhoods.  Whenever I'd walk through them, I'd think to myself, "Wow, this looks a lot like those old photos of New York from the late-19th/early-20th centuries."  It's an experience, and, with the New York image in mind, I can't help but think of what it will look like fifty years from now.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 10:32:19 AM EST
And who here remembers how funky Covent Garden was just after the fruit and veg went off to Planet Stratford?

And how they swore it would be developed sympathetically and affordably for little retailers and the Retail Chains would NEVER get in yada yada.

It's not even been "gentrified" - it's been "Rentrified" for greedy bastard landlords to make a killing.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 12:06:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those are two brands, like so many, that have online stores, so a trip to the mall is about our habit to demand "I want it now".  Once you know their products and like the quality, there is little need to check it out in person.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 05:22:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So getting down to personal policy we can control:  Is your shopping car-driven?  Where do you shop for occasional items?  Where do you not?  How often do you buy items that you find are poor quality and have to buy again?  How much e-shopping do you do?  Comparisons, ideas, improvements, solutions, ...revolutions?

I'm lucky enough not to have to own a car. I used to rent a car once a year or so to stock up on bargains at Ikea and the like, but I'd now rather have all my teeth root-canalled than spend more than fifteen minutes in a car. So I honestly can't remember the last time I was (shudder) in a "mall."

I hardly ever "go shopping," but I still end up shopping for food, toiletries, office and house supplies pretty much every day. There's almost nothing that I can't find -- at a decent price -- within a ten-minute walk from my apartment. And that ten minutes flies by because I get to observe the most fascinating and astounding collection of people (and dogs -- I don't own one but I've come to love observing these amazing creatures, genetically engineered just to love and entertain human beings, and I give thanks every day that I can see so many of them so easily -- and without actually having to feed or clean up after one of them!) on my way to and from the stores. Some people might find it inconvenient that you have to go to four or five small or medium-sized shops to find all the things you'd get "in one stop" in most places, but I love the additional exercise and the extra people-(and dog-) watching, not to mention the chance to be outdoors and  appreciate Manhattan's unparalled panoply of street trees (almost 200 different species) and flowering plants. They don't call New York a Natural Wonderland for nothing! ;-)

Another great pleasure: contact with working people from Central America, East Asia, the Middle East and Africa (pretty much in that order in my neighborhood). They give me hope that America may one day, when WASPs are firmly in the minority, become a kinder, more humane country.

I can't think of anything that I buy that is "poor quality and have to buy again," except maybe printers and most Microsoft programs. And I do a lot of e-shopping, especially for books, recordings and big-ticket items like electronics. As for "revolutions," well, all the trends seem to be going the other way, but I think the world would be a much happier place if more people could live in the more civilized big cities.

by Matt in NYC on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 12:02:26 PM EST
Do the shops south of Houston still exist?  I used to go clothes shopping there in the 70s when the area was the last stop for the production of the Garment District.  The idea being it was better to get something than nothing; "something" meaning "not very much."

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 12:39:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that the street you're thinking of? Some of the old stores are still there, but they seem to be giving way to the kind of weird but entertaining boutiques you used to see in Soho and Alphabet City. Also several of the trendiest, hardest-to-get-a-table-in restaurants in town, including one very, very pricy place where, as one reviewer has it, "Much of the cooking challenges diners to break with their food-pairing constructs." (Foie gras topped with quince yogurt? Why not! Or do you have a craving now and then for a pork belly stuffed with papaya? You'll find it there -- and your meal won't cost you and your companion much more than $300.)

Actually, it's still a great neighborhood, but the gentrification is a little scary.

by Matt in NYC on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 01:40:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds familiar, been a while ya' know, but it was several streets not just one.  Sigh  "The Old Days will never return" & etc. etc. etc.

My experiences in Alphabet City (in the 70s) doesn't quite reach to include boutiques and snooty culinary establishments purveying undigestible meals.  I presume the local HQ of the NYC Hell's Angels has re-located from 2nd St?  ;-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 03:19:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, "Orchard Street" is sort of shorthand for the whole area, but it was the street for "ladies' fashions." Stanton Street -- immortalized in Dave Tarras's "Chasidic in America" -- was where there were at one time 50 men's discount stores "fun Attorney Street biz Forsythe Street." And there was another street, whose name I forget, that sold interior and upholstery fabrics at incredibly low prices as late as the late 1980s.

But still, it's food -- not slashed prices on paisley mumus and 1960s-model SupHose -- that draws everyone to that neighborhood now. And lest you think it's all "indigestible," besides WD-50, there's also Schiller Bar and my current favorite cheap eaterie, Zucco: Le French Diner.  

Alphabet City is a little rich for my diet these days. And I've wondered for years whatever happened to the Hell's Angels down there. They added such caché to that neighborhood.

by Matt in NYC on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 04:36:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They weren't bad neighbors, all things considered.  From time to time we'd meet on the street, chat about motorcycles, I'd (very politely) decline the opportunity to purchase heroin, and they'd beat the snot out of anyone mucking with their turf.  Petty street crime dropped to zero.  

As long as you remembered they were completely batguano gonzo-crazy ... no problemo.  ;-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 12:59:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very similar here, the walk to the shops (two large-ish supermarkets opposite each other, a national chain--part of the John Lewis co-op--and a local shop-made good, called "Taj"...doing so well they're opening another across town.

And yeah, the walk...though for me it's birds, not dogs.  Seagulls, pigeons, blackbirds, strange birds whose call I recognise but the feathered producer...I haven't seen...and people...people watching...

....and then there's the other supermarket, the "veggie" hippie co-op with local veg and localish (well, okay, european) organic fruit etc....not to mention the "corner shop" which has also gone "green", with organic this and that.  They also sell a lot of pre-cooked curries and rice.

...and we have the trees, but we also have the sea, various views at different moments.  Plus we have hills (the five hills), so I'm going up or down or along and across and the view changes.

My view on malls: A lot of the people in them don't look healthy; and a lot of them aren't very bright-eyed.  So for the unhealthy and the not-so-quick-about-their-wits it seems the mall is a safe and comforting (comfortable?) place to be.  Also, I suppose it makes a difference if your plan is to shop--having the shops together and out of the weather.  So, the other people in malls: those out to buy-buy-buy.  Lossa bags being carried round, and lossa people eating pre-prepared food...which is fine.  The quality of the food and shops doesn't really change if they're all moved into the high street.  Taj does samosas and suchlike....but one key point, as you say Matt, is that I live 10 minutes from the shops so they are more just "there" rather than special.  For someone coming from out of town, it's an experience, and the mall must have that sense of aggregation....also, they appeal to the younger members of the public; and if they have baby facilities, and suchlike, they can be easy for some parents...not like the hassle of shopping out on the street...if you have to travel, I mean.  If you can't walk out your door, turn the corner, and lo!  Shops!  (Which would reduce road traffic considerably--shops below, living space above--people walking...oh and of course, the mall is free from traffic fumes and noise...)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 12:47:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right that the important part is the social interaction because it makes shopping humane.  I agree with you on everything except the last part about everyone living in big cities.  I don´t see how that would be feasible, or necessary because nowadays even the most sophisticated product can be sent anywhere.  It is only that we, city people, are used to instant gratification, but anyone can learn to plan ahead and wait.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 03:48:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually I didn't say "everyone." I said "more people." You only have to spend about an hour on the Net to realize that tens of millions of once-vibrant people are leading dreary hopeless lives in suburbs and exurbs all over the world. In the U.S. in particular, I think this is one of the root causes of American meanspiritedness and Republicanism. People are social animals; to thrive they need the kind of skin-to-skin contact you can only get in a close-knit village or a well-designed big city.

A sign of hope: there are over a million more people in New York City now than there were in 1990. (And the only people you ever hear complain about overcrowding are suburbanites foolish enough to drive into the city.)

by Matt in NYC on Sun Mar 25th, 2007 at 04:53:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We agree.  Close-knit communities are the key and they are ´made´ by people, living in contact; they cannot be built.  NYC seems to be one of the most adapted and adaptable cities in the world and is able to maintain many communities within.  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Tue Mar 27th, 2007 at 08:05:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another invasive detail that has become accepted, is the English naming on the centers, on the shops and many items that have an easy translation.  The old "foreign is good" is alive and well in Spain.

Present all across Europe, and annoys me in any language. It is fashion, and a very shallow fashion. In my personal impression it is worst in Germany. The fashion, especially among the elite of managers, politicians and media types (in this order of decreasing severity), is not only to overuse English words (really silly when say when the German expression is much shorter), but to create new English words/word-combinations -- which then neither domestic customers nor US/British tourists understand... This Anglicism is sarcastically called not just by conservatives Neudeutsch (=New German).

But I saw some rather funny examples of foreign language (mis)use from the window near the Austrian/Hungarian border last week: "Guest haus" (Haus=house in German) or "KÁVÉHÁZSHOP" (kávéház = café house), "Jagd shop" (Jagd = hunting, should be Jagdladen or Jäger-Shop)...

I politely refused the branded shopping bags and carried the stuff in my folding, reusable one because I will not provide free publicity, or bring more useless stuff home.  For decades now, I have had this aversion to wearing somebody else´s name on my person, and so far no brand has offered to pay me to wear it, either.

I share that aversion for clothes, but with bags it's different. When I got to then West Germany, I was surprised to see that people throw away shopping bags -- back home, the custom was (and for many people still is) to keep and re-use shopping bags. (Thus you see some rather worn-down bags on the street, and even more worn-down ones full of rubbish in rubbish containers, not sure that is that good a commercial-for-free :-) )

There isn´t a train, nor a bus in sight, because the public transit crowd would probably search for value....

Interesting. The malls in/around Budapest also focus on the lower classes -- in fact I have read tracts by upper-middle-class right-wingers connecting the stereotypic mall girl with plattenbau apartment blocks. The very first US-style mall was built on the edge of a plattenbau quarter, and some not already on mass transit routes paid to have such, in case of one even a tram line.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 03:44:32 AM EST
The use of English for shops names and so on becomes even weirder when the branding style moves to an English speaking country with emigrants and you start getting food shops called "SNAP!" and "WOW!" or whatever. Very strange indeed.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 04:08:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
keep and re-use shopping bags. (Thus you see some rather worn-down bags on the street, and even more worn-down ones full of rubbish in rubbish containers, not sure that is that good a commercial-for-free :-) )

I forgot to add as example that I just did a sorting of shopping bags this weekend and, as usual, used the three most worn-down ones to collect dog shit...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 04:24:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is your shopping car-driven?

No, but that's easy not having a car.

Where do you shop for occasional items?  

Depends on how much time (and nerves) I have. Usually what is nearest -- can be a mall, can be a big store, can be a small shop. If I look for something specific or rare, I go to all places I know.

Where do you not?  

Nothing is pre-excluded, but I mostly avoid brand shops, and (like you) 'trendy' shops with blaring music. Generally, I don't like to shop (maybe it's a male thing?), and dislike for flashy but crappy products at large stores is paired with dislike for pushy small-shop owners who won't let me examine their products in peace.

How often do you buy items that you find are poor quality and have to buy again?  

Relative to what? I generally try to buy quality over low prize, because my experience is that on the long run this is the cheaper option, but I don't always know in advance what's quality and what's not.

How much e-shopping do you do?  

Near zero. If my memory doesn't trick me, my current PC was the first and only, and that was a bad experience (they didn't sent it as ordered, and sent it with faulty parts).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 04:01:57 AM EST
I see many wrote about open markets, I didn't mention them because it's for regular items. I also add that what annoys me most when in a mall is the noise level -- I'm not sure it is as bad in other cities than Budapest, but here the combined noise of loud music in every second story or café, the mall's own music in the hallways, the restaurants (reflected back and forth in the closed space), and of people trying to talk in this environment, is very loud. I suspect Budapest malls break national and EU rules for workers' noise exposure.

Meanwhile, since cars aren't banned in the inner city, and most of the prime inner-city shopping areas are alongside main roads, shopping there also goes with noise (plus air pollution). Still, while the appearance of malls put a strong dent in their business, many recuperated.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 04:32:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But open markets are regular items! In Lyon, like in many cities, they take place daily...

BTW, why did you djinn-rate my post on the Marrakech souk?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 04:39:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But open markets are regular items!

That's my point: metavision asked about occasional items, so I haven't mentioned them in my original reply.

On the djinn-rating, as you probably guessed, that was only because my mouse slipped :-) Now corrected.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 04:44:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've always hated shopping, and usually don't do it other than groceries.  Convenient because my wife loves it.  but we have mentioned how great shopping has become over the last few years because there are so many choices now--compared to say 20 years ago:local shops with local ownership; large malls like described in the diary; discount malls with incredible bargains; and now the internet which is getting more and more of our business because of the unbelievable convenience.

we live in a nice, and a mixed area,,,ethnically and financially.  It's a small town in a large metropolis area.  The small town has mainly local business, and it has that old local ownership kind of feel.  Prices are probably a little high, not much.

There are two areas more like malls--one in the city where it's more a grouping of stores, and another in a suburb where it's the real suburban mall thing.  Perhaps our one complaint is that we would use some of these stores more if they were in our small town.

Third there is the collection of outlet stores about 75 miles away, but on a drive we make somewhat regularly, that has absolutely incredible bargains.  It has 142 shops, some of which are incredible upscale places that I never would have thought would have outlet stores,,,and the discounts are 50--80%.  We think it's pretty far away from the city because if it wasn't, everyone would go there all the time,,,,avoiding these stores in the city where the merchandise is full price.

And now there is all of the convenience of the internet, where you can find things that you can't find locally--years ago we would have given up,,,,old movies for example.  and you can get bargain prices.  you can buy at the world's largest garage sale, Ebay.

And in addition there are places like WalMart, Home Depot, etc., that are all over.

So it's really incredibly improved for the consumer in the US, over the past decade or so.

l haven't lived in Europe since the early '90's, but I found at that time that things were much more expensive, and without the choices.  In fact I bought 90% of my clothes when I was back in the US, to save money.  On the other hand I loved the feel of the local high streets.  And I'm back in Europe frequently now, but not really shopping, in the sense of living there, but my sense is that things are still very expensive, and not the same level of choice.

this is not to say I wouldn't move to Europe again,,,I would of course as I love it.  Just pointing out the differences in shopping.

by wchurchill on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 05:21:18 AM EST
Sorry,as often I am late to comment. I never liked to shop and it is a horror for me being dragged by well-meaning friends, for fun :-(, to spend an afternoon shopping - so exhausting.

I only like shopping, i.e. window-shopping when I am in foreign cities, more to feel and breath the ambiente.

Most stuff I need I find here in the village. For cloth I found that ordering from cataloges is helpful - finally found one that has pants that fit me. However, more often then not, by the time I finally sit down to make the list for ordering, the cataloge for the next season is arriving and it is to late to order, like winter cloth in  February. But once in a while I make it.

However, I am willing to the spend money when I see something I really like. Over twenty years ago I bought  in August, when visiting Taos, New Mexico, a winter coat made of Indian blanket - it was very expensive, but with shaking knees I bought and took it with my all the way to the south of Texas. I still have it and when ever I wear it, I get compliments. Some things are just worth it.

I do like open markets, unfortunately they are not near by.

by Fran on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 10:01:52 AM EST
Exact same details.  Besides, I am past the young family, consuming stage, so I need very little and shop less and less.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 06:36:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In pictures:

Pólus Center, the first or second modern mall in Budapest, built just next to a plattenbau (like 3-4 other Budapest malls), also one of the ugliest and (intentionally) most US-style with its giant parking lot and flat outlay (and worse than US with its hyper-kitch interior, including painted sky):

The nearby Ázsia Center, the (at least at the time of completition) largest mall in Central Europe, built by Chinese businessmen, housing hundreds of small shops selling the same importware, initially a failure (people could buy the same stuff cheaper at Chinese open markets) but now with some traffic:

The Westend City Center, a giant inner-city mall (with bureaus/hotels on top on the right side) in place of former railway marshalling yards, with the parking house placed above some tracks of West Railway Terminal (on the photo from before the end of construction, rebuilt tracks still missing between those white columns):

Inside Westend City Center, whose pluses of downtown/public transit access and some natural lights on top are balanced by being the loudest inside and being most frequented by the kind of teenagers Drew Jones would call out:

There is even a well-established Budapest slang word for the girls buying/wearing all the bright-coloured crappy design stuff with heavy makeup & walk around malls with dead eyes, plázacica (=mall pussycat), and it is said their density per metre is highest in the Westend.

As last example, the MOM park was built by a German chain with the philosophy that natural lights should be allowed in, but I don't have many impressions -- it is in the posh Buda part of Budapest and I have been there only to watch some films:

A section of the Great Boulevard, pre-malls a prime shopping area, here with uncharacteristically few cars:

The great Budapest Market Hall, (today) a renovated century-old building where Western tourists go:

I'm not sure I'd take any Western guests to a real, everyday marketplace in or around Budapest -- they might have doubts about hygiene and atmosphere.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 11:27:02 AM EST
Ahhh, one of these days I will become proficient with pictures!

That Azsia Center looks as inhumane as it can be.  It could be an Airbus factory, a factory farm...  I love the Great Boulevard and the markets because they have a human scale and they are approachable to me.  

I am happy in the older streets of Madrid full of small shops, even if they are more expensive, because I learn what each merchant is good at and I can count on finding what I need.  Many will even order it if they don´t have it.  They survive by specializing and giving personal service.

I grew up with real market places where almost everything was wrapped in newspaper, so that doesn´t bother me at all.  Now they use plastic bags for everything, of course, and I rarely take them because I have this eternal, folding tote in my purse and I just don´t create enough garbage for them all.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 06:13:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I always felt at home in malls until I was in my early 20's when I started to grow into other ways of living and consuming. I've been to the Mall of America many hundreds of times in my life. During high school my friends and I went there several times a week to play video games at the arcade and check out the girls, and my first post-college job was right across the street so I often ate lunch there. Here is an aerial pic of the mall (stolen from google maps):

There really are alpacas where I show them to be, by the way. Very odd to see farm animals across the street from a semiconductor fab.

The Mall of America is a fairly vibrant place. Lots of people going about their business, chatting with each other, yelling at their kids, just normal daily life. Now days I simply prefer the cafe on the street (and the streets themselves) for my urban spiritual experiences and material consumption. It's nothing more than a personal preference.  

The malls that scare me are the banal, older malls in a lot of American suburbs. Sparsely populated both in people and stores and handicapped with pitiful architecture, they are a microcosm of dying cities. If they are located in actual dying cities, the body language of the inhabitants reflects it. It is difficult to observe.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 04:39:38 PM EST
I hope I never suffer the curse of visiting such a place and I won´t go willingly.  That is the epitomy of... dis-urban, living hell.  Except for the green zones, that could be a map of moon craters.  Poor alpacas!

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 06:28:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure I follow - how is this mall different from the mall you spoke of in this story?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 06:33:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I disliked the tiny mall I visited and it may have been a three-minute walk from one end to the other, but it was an open air walk.

To me the moa is a description of human despair.  The only relating factor for people in that setting is their car.  It's the size, it's disconnected from every other human activity, it looks like you'd "need" a golf cart just to get around inside and there is no social quality at all in any of the ´planning´.  Even if there are restaurants there, even if there is ´a bus´.

A person on foot could not survive there, a car breakdown in that area would render one helpless --short of a cell phone-- waiting for a rare police patrol, or a good samaritan that ...might give up the ´freedom of speed´ and stop the car to help.  It is car heaven and captive-human hell.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Tue Mar 27th, 2007 at 07:40:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indoor malls make sense in the American midwest because it gets so damn cold in the winter. Believe me, it's convenient when the temperature is below zero (Fahrenheit!). A lot of the modern malls here in northern California are outdoor because the weather is temperate year round.

The mall is well served with busses and light rail, so actually, a lot of poor and working class people that don't own cars shop there. The counterpoint is that their own neighborhoods are not well served, which I won't deny.

You can certainly walk around the inside - it's great exercise.

I'm not a big fan of malls, but calling it a pit of human despair is a bit much. Despair is violence, unemployment, starvation, those kinds of things. Malls  are a misallocation of material resources more than a human evil.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Mar 27th, 2007 at 12:56:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
_ By that time, the sensory overload had done its damage and I felt stressed, cranky, unable to focus, dazed and tired._

Sounds like me whenever I go shopping in a mall or a big department store, or for that matter get dragged to a boutique crawl. But there are exceptions - books, food, cookware bring my inner consumerist out. On the other hand for the other stuff department stores and malls aren't so bad - I can get my once a year shopping done more quickly.

Good shopping experiences:

Union Square Greenmarket


Used books (Strand)

New books (Labyrinth)

Meat

Cheese and cold cuts

Cookware (Broadway Panhandler)

by MarekNYC on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 05:45:44 PM EST
That´s great.  That´s the city shopping I like.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Mar 26th, 2007 at 06:32:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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