Mall or Nothing

I’m normally a pretty open-minded and non-complaining type of person, but I can no longer remain silent on the fact that shopping malls are horrible, squalid places where everything costs twice as much as it does in real stores and where the store managers are generally no more than 13 years old.

This last point is an important one. For me to take a store manager seriously, he or she needs to be old enough, defined as older than I am. Right now, while I’m relatively young, this shouldn’t be too much to ask. When I’m 90 and expecting store managers to be 100, we might have a problem. But if I actually live to be 90, we’ll have more important issues to deal with, such as the freezing over of hell and all the after-effects of THAT.

(I’m surprised I’ve lived as long as I have, actually, considering I eat nothing but garbage. Del Taco has something called the Big Fat Crispy Chicken Taco, apparently aware that big, fat and crispy are my three weaknesses when it comes to food. It could be Big Fat Crispy Raccoon Faces and I would still buy several of them a day.)

But back to the mall thing. First of all, if you buy a CD in a mall CD store, you’re an idiot. There’s no other word for you, except possibly moron. What’s the average price of a CD in a mall store? $17.98 or thereabouts. There are many free-standing CD stores, not to mention the Internet, where you can buy CDs for around $13. You can also buy used CDs — which work just as well as new ones, because they’re digital and — oh, I don’t feel like explaining it — for $6 or $7. So how do mall CD stores stay in business? By only stocking the current Top 40 albums, which only appeal to teenagers, who are not known for their wise purchasing choices. (These are people who can’t even keep their pants on well enough to cover their underwear, for crying out loud. You want they should be able to bargain-shop?)

People say malls are convenient because if you have to buy several different things, you can get them all under one roof. The thing is, we already have places like that. They’re called department stores. Brigham Young even invented one, you’ll recall, with the catchy title of ZCMI. (Not that I am suggesting you shop there specifically. If you want to talk about over-priced merchandise, ZCMI pretty much wrote the book and stays in business only because there are still, in the year 2000, Utahns who feel obligated to shop there just because they think Brigham Young told them to.)

There’s also Sam’s Club. Granted, you can’t (well, shouldn’t) buy clothes there, but they’ve got pretty much everything else you need. Plus, it’s a club, so not just any riff-raff can shop there. It’s a very exclusive club, one that limits its membership only to those who will pay to join it. And it offers its members a warm, cozy atmosphere by posting minimum-wagers at the door to check your receipts to make sure you’re not stealing anything when you leave. (“Welcome to our friendly club! Shoplifters will be killed!”) And you can’t beat the deals there. My friend Jesse recently purchased a 12-pound bag of generic Lucky Charms — no, not Marshmallow Mateys, like you get at regular stores; these were Marshmallow Trinkets — GENERIC generic cereal — for something like a nickel. The founder of Sam’s Club, Sam Walton, has a widow who is the richest woman in America. How do you think she got that way? By shopping at Sam’s Club, of course. (Also, her rich husband died.)

So malls are unnecessary. The only mall stores that couldn’t exist anywhere else are stores we don’t need anyway, like the ones that only sell neckties or potholders or whatever. Everyone else could set up shop in a non-mall environment and do just fine. Of course, the prices on those CDs would have to come down. Just like the kids’ pants keep coming down! You kids today, with your pants! Get off my lawn.

Sometimes I'm fond of pretending to be a grumpy old man. I suspect that someday, a grumpy old man is what I will actually be. In this column, I didn't express enough hatred toward malls, but I think you get the idea. Just remember that I actually despise them far, far more than I let on here.