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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Maul Shopping

For a lame shopper like me, our trip to the sixth largest mall in America this week was overwhelming to say the least.

I went with a carload of friends and relatives to Sawgrass Mills Mall - my first visit to the legendary outlet-heavy shopping mecca of South Florida. Wikipedia says it’s the sixth largest mall in the country. Which means it’s like the Phoenix of shopping malls (or Philadelphia, depending on who’s winning that race today . . . Oh wait, some crazy Arizonan just left the door unlocked and one of his wives escaped; Philly takes it.)

Sixth largest? Really? That means there are five other malls in this country that are larger? I’m having a hard time with that.

The largest mall in the country is the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania. The Mall of America in Minnesota is #2, but it has the most stores with 522. I’m wondering if they counted the kiosks.

And speaking of kiosks, the wandering minstrels that walk around the Sawgrass Mills Mall selling their wares and trying to run hand cream down our pores rank No. 1 in being obnoxious.

Attention wandering minstrels: Report back to your kiosks immediately. Look at yourself in those little mirrors you have and write in lipstick 100 times: I will not accost innocent people and say things that make them feel unattractive and make them wish they had gone to Walmart instead.

One wandering minstrel hijacked my daughter’s shopping experience and kept lowering the price of a fingernail treatment until my previously nice daughter said, “I don’t want it” whereupon the minstrel got snippy and mean.

And when I tried to politely ignore one, he turned to his partner and said: “She’s from Canada.” (Is that bad? Canadian friends, please spill it: Do you people part with your dollars less often than we do?)

I’m thinking the freedom to venture away from the cash register and stool to try to drum up sales with nationality insults is one of the advantages of having a kiosk instead of a real store in a mall. There must be a radius limit, though, because the minstrels won’t come running after you, no matter how close they are to making the sale. If you keep walking, they’ll eventually step back inside the invisible line and try someone closer.

At home in our regular mall, when trying to avoid them, I just put my phone up to my ear and carry on an imaginary conversation. It keeps them away like a garlic necklace. I am clever and witty and a sparkling conversationalists in those pretend phone calls. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my call, I have to hover outside Macy’s and finish talking before I go in.

But at Sawgrass, I was with other people, so a phone call to my imaginary friend would have to wait. I had to fend off the kiosk minstrels with my bare hands and an Ann Taylor Factory Store shopping bag weighted down with a chunky necklace.

This mall is so big, it took us 20 minutes to walk from the end of Avenue 1, home of Bare Feet Shoes, to the far end of Avenue 4, where the Lids store was. Before you think that this mall was organized in order of where you would put things onto your body, no; it was organized by making a list of every possible thing you could ever want to buy and then putting the list through a paper shredder and then feeding the scraps into the central air conditioning vent. Where they landed the racks were set up and stuff was sold. There are five sunglasses stores. There are two Elegance Perfume stores, one on each end. There are 15 stores that sell athletic shoes.

For you hardcore shoppers out there, this might be kid’s stuff, but for me, it was all so overwhelming. I just kept thinking back to the days when I would take my kids school clothes shopping and they would whine that they couldn’t find anything. If we had lived near the nation’s sixth largest mall, I would have just parked myself at one of the Cinnabons and sent the kids off to shop with the order: Don’t come back until you’ve got five outfits or a part-time job at a kiosk.

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