Avoiding malls is one of the main tenets of my lifestyle, but recently I had occasion to visit a couple for the purpose of buying clothes. It only took about five minutes to remind me why I hate malls so much. They have so, so many problems. They are not responsive to what people want from them. The troubles that they are having now are mostly the same problems they were having twenty years ago, when they first started really annoying me. Shopping malls deserve to die off.
Here are my issues with shopping malls, in ascending order:
10. Wi-fi barriers. Ask for every scrap of my personal contact information so I can have temporary access to extremely low-bandwidth wi-fi. This is how you compete with my ability to buy everything that ever existed online, in my home, 24/7?
9. Car-centric design. I don’t drive, and trying to get from a sidewalk to the actual mall building is a nightmare. As a user of alternative transportation, I am stuck carrying my bags around with me, whether to a restaurant, movie theater, or additional stores. Lockers would be nice. I’ve actually been hassled by theater ushers because they thought I had too many shopping bags. So, yeah, drive me away and prevent me from spending more time and money at your facility.
8. Other shoppers. Leaving their drinks on shelves, dropping garments on the floor, walking one mile an hour, blocking aisles with huge carts, ignoring their children for extended phone stroking breaks. When I last walked through a mall, a fight was being broken up between a pit bull and a German Shepherd, neither of which presented as service animals.
7. Seasonality offset. By the time I want to buy sandals, they’re sold out in my size in every style. When I want to buy sweaters and a new jacket, I’m looking at spring dresses. Huh?
6. Food courts. Very predictable offerings, virtually nothing for anyone who follows any kind of alternative diet. What’s the matter, don’t you want my money?
5. Email bombardment. Every single store wants my email address, because every single one of them intends to send me email every single day. Why on earth would any brand think that this is a good idea? How incredibly short-sighted and rude.
4. The clothes. I’m a middle-aged woman of almost precisely average height, average shoe size, and textbook-indicated body weight. Almost nothing fits me. Most mall stores don’t carry my size at all, even online. All I want out of clothes are that they cover my body, fit my frame, and have pockets that hold my phone. I want them to play nicely with the washer and dryer without leaching dye on my other clothes. I want shoes I can walk comfortably in for twelve hours a day. Apparently zero of these characteristics are permissible. Instead we get weird embellishments, mysterious cutouts, mystifying care instructions, three-inch heels, and almost nothing a mature person can wear in a business environment.
3. The perfumes. They are probably gross and overwhelming to most people. To a fragrance-sensitive person like myself, perfumes are a minefield. I have walked into a shopping mall before, trying to get to a specific store, and had a migraine before I made it three minutes down the hall. One scent would be bad enough, but the miasma of all of them combined makes it a major obstacle.
2. The kiosks. Most annoying thing ever. Do not make eye contact with me, do not approach me, do not speak to me, do not interrupt my conversation with my friend, definitely never follow me as I rush past you. Whoever approved this sales model obviously does not care how loathsome it is to the majority of people trying frantically to get away.
1. Malls are designed around what brands want to SELL, not what people want to BUY. We want to buy practical things that serve a specific purpose. We want things that are easy to maintain and that last a long time. Often, in my case, I want something specific that either doesn’t exist or that isn’t in stock. Meanwhile I find myself surrounded by tens of thousands of things I do not want and never will want.
Note that I use the word ‘people’ rather than other terms like ‘shoppers’ or ‘consumers.’ I despise the idea that my core identity is ‘someone who consumes,’ which would be a grievous insult to most people throughout human history, akin to calling someone a ‘useless eater.’ A taker, not a giver; a user, not a producer. I also reject the idea that my mission in life is to ‘shop’ or buy things. I’m a person. I’m a person whose purpose in life is to love my friends and family, be a part of my community, create art, solve problems, think original thoughts, and appreciate nature. Sometimes I do chores, and occasionally replace my shirts, but these are externalities.
What will happen to these immense buildings after the retail apocalypse has continued wiping out storefronts, brands, and entire retail complexes? What will happen to all that commercial real estate after shopping malls have died off? I think they’ll be filled more and more with community gathering places such as various types of gyms, or offices for social services. Otherwise, unfortunately, these temples to consumerism will probably turn into desolate ruins, and all because they can’t get it together and figure out how to respond to what people want from them.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.