Sunday, July 19, 2009

This is why people don’t go to the mall anymore.

I was at the mall last week with my mom. She was buying a new pair of jeans and I was attempting to buy concert tickets.

Her search for pair of basic jeans was successful only after going to several stores and enduring dozens of pairs of slim-fit, low-rise stretch models clearly not marketed towards the majority of American women. Until she dug for an hour in JCPenney and settled for a less than stellar pair that was the only one that fit that wasn’t severely flared, distressed or heavily decorated, she almost left empty handed.

Go online, they say. But what is the mall there for if everything I need is online?

Who are the buyers for these stores aiming for? The “thin, Middle American, mid-thirties mom with kids” demographic is almost overserved at the mall, and by and large she’s not at the mall in the first place because she doesn’t have time to shop. Yet all the stores are filled with merchandise for her and, largely, her alone.

Teenagers are also heavily marketed to, but they’re usually price conscious in this economic age and looking for deals. No deals are to be found when the stores still think it’s 2005 and try to push aspirational merchandise. Bling is dead, y’all. $2.50 gas and random layoffs killed it. Kids are trying to pay for their cars, cell phones and apartments, not Air Jordans and Louis Vuitton handbags.

The fat, the old and, notably, men and kids get short shrift with the mall too. Need that in a 2x, folks? Go to the back of the store and dig through embarrassing garbage to find something that still probably doesn’t fit. Are you tall? Go elsewhere unless you only like blue polos. Need a suit for church? You MIGHT find it, but it’s either too cheap to last or too expensive (and form fitting) to bother purchasing. Need shoes? They’re too wide, too short, too cheap or too “boogie,” and that’s just at Sears! How about some cool toys or the latest electronic gadget? Sorry, we don’t carry those!

Go online, they say. But what is the mall there for if everything I need is online?

As for me, I left empty handed. I needed concert tickets for U2’s performance in Charlottesville, and since I can’t get affordable high speed internet service, I attempted to ditch the online purchase of same and buy them at my local Ticketmaster outlet, which the website suggested as an alternative. My somewhat friendly Ticketmaster rep informed me that contrary to what the website says, the purchase in person of tickets for a show TWO HOURS AWAY in the SAME STATE was impossible, because Ticketmaster was a “regional operation” and the Roanoke and Charlottesville weren’t in the same region. She suggested I go online.

That accomplished a lot. I could have bought them online in the first place.

Go online, they say. But what is the mall there for if everything I need is online?

Long story short, I got my tickets and I’m headed to Charlottesville to see U2 in October. It took a half hour of frustration online on Ticketmaster’s website to get them, during which I endured several up-sell attempts including event insurance, promising to cover my tickets if something happens (with no mention AT ALL about what constitutes a claim, much less how to file it, and a handy “print your own tickets” utility that somehow costs $2.50 more than having them mail the damn things to you.

This is what I was hoping to avoid by going to the mall.

Carry on.