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Observations from a Mall

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I've been noticing it more and more lately. Perhaps it's due to the economy, the heated political environment, or maybe just a cultural shift towards impatience with anything that doesn't bring immediate gratification.

This is an observation I made last week as I was setting up displays for the latest changes during Fashion Week.

The Setting: An upscale fashion store.

A mother is waiting for a fitting room. There are six fitting rooms and each one is occupied. She has her three children with her, a daughter about twelve, a son about ten, a little girl about four. Mom is around 30, she has a fantastic tanning-bed tan, and she is in incredible shape. No doubt she keeps her personal trainer very busy.

She's wearing enough diamonds and gold to give Queen Elizabeth an inferiority complex. She's carrying Dolce and Gabbana (the big blue bag, not the little one). And she's driving a gas-guzzling SUV. Her clothes are high end. The kid's clothes are high end as well. She is extremely rude to the sales staff and other patrons. She is gaudy and ostentatious; one of the patrons hand-coughs bourgeois as she walks by and others titter at the joke. However she seems blissfully oblivious of this fact. And also of the fact that she strongly resembles a ridiculous caricature of a late night TV drama character.

Mom has dragged the kids into the store so she can shop for herself. She has loaded up her arms with clothes that she wants to try on, and now, a good hour or so into shopping, she is starting to get angry and impatient that she can't get into a fitting room right away. She starts to yell at the sales associate, demanding to know why there aren't more fitting rooms.

In the meantime baby is running around grabbing clothes off of racks and screaming 'I want this!', stamping her little feet and glaring at mom with an 'I dare you to say no' look on her face. Mom turns to her and says, 'No. You can't have that'. Baby angrily throws the garment on the floor and goes back to the rack to grab another garment and return with it – she repeats this scenario over and over. Mom turns to big sis and yells at her, 'I told you to keep an eye on her! Go get her now!' I'm thinking… It's your kid, lady, you go get her.

Big sis looks overwhelmed trying to wrestle garments from baby and drags her, literally kicking and screaming, back to the fitting rooms where she promptly breaks loose and runs back out onto the sales floor.

Brother has been completely ignored during this time and he's obviously been trained that negative attention is better than no attention at all. He's been knocking over displays and taking swipes at big sis while she wrestles with baby. Mom yells at him to 'cut it out or else'.

Mom demands to see a manager. When the manager arrives mom starts yelling at her that she needs a fitting room now! Right now. She starts to curse. She wants to know what's wrong with 'you people'.

As her agitation mounts the kids become more agitated as well. They're all angry, stressed out. Lashing out both physically and verbally. Big sis looks like she's going to cry, and she is becoming increasingly rough in her handling of baby who is now slapping, kicking and pulling sis' hair to try to escape her restraint. Brother has School Bully written all over him. He's actually enjoying the negative attention he's getting for his acts of violence. He reaches over and thunks baby on the back of the head with his thumb and middle finger, making her scream like someone has poked her eye out. Big sis says 'you're a jerk!' He mimics back at her 'You're a jerk' in a nasally voice that makes me want to pop him one. Then smack! He slaps big sis in the face while she tries to hang onto the squirming, kicking baby. Mom shouts 'I mean it! You're both going to get it!'

When a fitting room finally comes available mom turns to the fitting room attendant and says 'Watch them while I try these on'. Not a request. An order.

My jaw almost hits the floor.

She chooses to bring the children. She chooses to overload her arms with clothes to try on, at least a good hour's worth of clothes changing, and now the fitting room attendant is expected to be her babysitter.

The fitting room attendant declines politely, explaining that she can't be responsible for the kids.

Mom begins another cursing fit, throws the clothes on the floor next to baby's rejected wish list, and starts yelling for the kids, with another severe outburst at big sis for not keeping baby under control. She storms out of the store screaming about what a horrible place this is and that she'll never shop here again. She's going to call corporate and complain. She stalks out to her SUV, her face distorted into a mask of insanity as she screams and yells unheard instructions at poor big sis who is trying to wrangle baby into a car seat.

The Aftermath:

When she was safely out of the parking lot and on her way back to her happy life, I walked over to the fitting room attendant, who looked up at me sheepishly, with tears in her eyes from the verbal beating she had just taken. I felt bad for her. I let loose a few choice names for 'crazy mom', telling her not to worry about it. If anything we should feel sorry for those kids. She's creating monsters that she's going to have to deal with later on. Her life must be horrid. Can you imagine being that stressed out all of the time? And teaching her kids to get that stressed out whenever they don't immediately get their way?

The ladies waiting patiently in line for their fitting rooms chimed in with their own support…

'I don't take my kids shopping with me. It's not fair to them…'

'She can afford that purse, but she can't afford a babysitter?'

'I've got news for you. That purse is a knock-off.&#39

'It's not your fault honey, that woman is nuts…'

And then a woman who was old enough to have finished raising her kids said the most profound thing:

'I wonder why people like that even have kids? Some sort of self gratification I guess.'

Oh yes.

Definitely.

I can't think of anything that will guarantee that your kids will grow up to be frustrated, miserable people more than teaching them that they, for whatever reason, should expect immediate gratification. That their wants and desires should become someone else's priority, simply because that's what they want. Now. And they absolutely should not be made to wait.

I see similar behaviors every day in different forms. From the grocery store to vacation spots, I see kids stressed out because they cannot get what they want immediately, and I see their parents and how they behave, how their stress and frustration is passed on to their children. It won't be long before those chickens come home to roost.

If all kids grow up to think that others should acquiesce to them, they are bound to live lives of frustration and anger. Because no one is going to give them what they want all of the time. Particularly not others who have been raised to think that what they want, they should get as well.

It is a vicious circle.

Disclaimer: This story is based on actual events; however the details have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. If you see yourself or any of your family members in these characters, I can promise you that I probably was not writing this about you. And you should seek family therapy as soon as possible.

"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things." – Winston Churchill

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About A Geek Girl

  • http://www.whalertly.com/wordpress Robert M. Barga

    this is why I love going to malls. Nothing pleases me more than watching the idiots and their children, and how misbehaved they are. I then pull out my phone and call my parents… they raised me properly (though I hated them for it, at the time)

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    Robert, when I was growing up all of the mothers in the neighborhood kept an eye on us. I could get into trouble at someone else’s house and my mom would know about it before I even got home. Now you can’t even criticize someone else’s child.

    One thing I found interesting was the fact that some of the women were judging her based purely on her ‘status’ amongst them.
    Meow. Hiss!

    Pot, meet Kettle.
    Don’t you think?

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I read your article Geek Girl, and appreciate what you wrote. I had a long comment here that my own carelessness in typing managed to erase.

    Put simply, the infantile culture you saw in the mall where you work is the product of millions of hours of advertisements for such garbage as Burger King or McDonald’s and all the fools who copy the immediate (and servile) service rule.

    This is the evil hand of American merchandising and marketing at work, spreading a misery that slowly kills by heightening expectations and disappointing those expectations with reality every time.

  • http://enspyre1.blogspot.com Leah Jewel Alexander

    I just love it! You took me, the reader on a ride and I was totally there, in that mall, with those kids, and oh Lord, that mother. Shall we all bow our heads and say an interreligious prayer?! Great article.

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    Ruvy, I wonder if the economy is going to change some of those attitudes. That people who are being forced to take work that they formerly felt was below them will make them appreciate a bit more what it’s like to work hard, really hard, just to be able to take care of their families. Nobody should have to tolerate abuse on the job.

    My dad always says that you shouldn’t live for your work, you should work for your life. It’s a simple philosophy that reminds me to make sure I’m enjoying my life, that I’m taking time to have fun, otherwise–what am I working for?

    You should enjoy what’s coming up.
    Start brushing up now on your favorite pop culture quotes… I’m expecting good things from you (being my favorite pedant and all).

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    Leah, I added you on twitter. This should be interesting.

    Life in fashion and retail is very fascinating right now. When I work at the mall I see so many things that make me think. I’ve seen violence between teenagers escalating at an alarming rate. I was once inspired to write a long piece just by seeing an elderly couple holding hands as they crossed a street together.

    You just never know, from day to day, what interaction you will see, and how it will affect you.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the read.

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    Two words: Internet shopping. This is precisely why I hate going to malls.

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    Joanne, People aren’t shopping like they used to. Now the Mall is populated by more teenagers than adults, even during school hours.

    Internet shopping is right!
    Amazon loves me.
    And they have much better prices!

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Fools keep trying to mall up Israel like America. It’s sickening. There is a certain amount of fun going to na’alé níssim, (Nissim’s Shoes) and bargaining with this Persian Jew who argues over how much to pay and whether it should be in cash or not and who reassures me endlessly that the shoes in my hands are the best shoes ever made, etc. etc.

    I tell him, “it’s not a matter of money” and he drops the price some more, until I feel the bite in my wallet is worth it. The shoes fit and I walk out the door. I’m satisfied, and the Persian Jew thinks he clipped another stupid American Jew.

    In the mall my son brings me to, it’s pay up or leave; and it’s ALWAYS 50 or 100 shekels more than he has told me it would be. He sniffs at na’alé níssim – or he used to, until he realized how hard it was to make money.

    And mall food is always expensive and overpriced. Israelis are still entranced with shopping and “doing what Americans do”. I can’t wait to see how entranced they get when they realize how many Americans are sleeping under bridges….

    I hear that again Starbucks is coming to Israel.

    Feh!

  • http://www.whalertly.com/wordpress Robert M. Barga

    @2
    I am not sure that i got the meaning of your second sentence

    as for puinishment, i know, it is impossible to try and correct others behaviour these days. If i did something, my parents expected to punish me and know it immediatly, if another parent didnt tell them, I and that parent would get hell

    as for correcting kids now, you are more likely to get sued

  • http://www.whalertly.com/wordpress Robert M. Barga

    @8 hey, dont diss the teenagers. I find nothing more entertaining than going to a mall and following the groups around. Their interactions are priceless, and their stupidity is hilarious

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    Ruvy, You have to hold onto your culture as long as possible. Your son should know that one of America’s favorite pastimes is reminiscing about ‘the good old days’. Things change quickly once you get the ball rolling.
    Starbucks in Israel? I prefer Dunkin Donuts coffee. I’d be more worried if you had said Waffle House. The downfall of Western Civilization.

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    Robert, I had no idea you were a BC author as well. I’m going to explore your work. And add you to my twitter.
    Nice to meet you.

    @2 meant that my neighbors all knew each other (unlike my neighbors today). Somebody would have called my mom to tell her before I even got home.

    @11 You’re right. What was I thinking? They’ve offered me hours of entertainment and thought provacation. Did I look like that to others when I was that age? It was the 80s. I had big hair. The mall was the place to hang out. I fear I may have been worse ;)

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Geek Girl,

    EVERY major fast food joint has tried to succeed in Israel, including Dunkin’ Donuts. The vast majority of them failed. About seven years ago, I had an inside contact at Starbucks – and I was going to try for a job there as a manager in the store they were planning to open in J-lem. On the day I was going to call, I read that the entire upper management (including my contact) had been sacked. Eventually Starbucks shut down altogether here, taking up lots of virtual ink in the business columns here as to why. Israel is a coffee culture, and we know coffee, inasmuch as the Turks brought it here several centuries ago. This is not true of America, which is really more of a beer culture. So the boys at Starbucks have been raking in the bucks selling overpriced and over-burnt coffee and stale pastries. That strategy just didn’t work here.

    We’ll see if they’ve learnt anything at all in the intervening seven years. I tend to doubt it.

  • http://mykafkaesquelife.blogspot.com/ MKL

    Wow, T!

    What a great post and what an ordeal you were nearly part of. Amazing. What can I say? Money can’t raise your kids, money and branded clothes don’t make a person better.. You are who you are, even if you’re wrapped in gold.

  • http://www.whalertly.com/wordpress Robert M. Barga

    @13 where did you find me, if not here on BC?

    I make sure that I know my neighbors (granted, they are hot, so that helps), as it gives me both a sense of friendship and one of security

    as for malls, never hung out there, but i love watching teens when i am there

  • http://wifegonebad.wordpress.com wifegonebad

    I think I’ll read this again the next I get moody because I didn’t have kids! I’m glad you went up to the sales attendant and told her it wasn’t her fault, too, that must have made her day.

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    Ruvy, I have to disagree with you on the beer culture thing. We’re more of a fast food culture I think. Taste isn’t an issue, we just want it fast.

    I lived in Germany for 5 years. Now that is a beer culture! I loved the fests and the beer seasons there. The release of special beer during certain times in the brewing stages.

    I’m a coffee fan, but not a Starbucks fan. We drink that mainly for the extra shots of caffiene, not the flavor. I think the best coffee I ever had was a gift from a friend who brought me some from Brazil. Dark and rich. I wish I could get good coffee like that every day.

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    MKL, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m hoping to see this country turn to more conservative values (morally, not a political statement) as we recover from our economic crisis. That the kids are learning the importance of who they are rather than who they wear.

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    Robert, Yes. Here.
    And your site. I read your site first from your link. I’m still doing things a bit backwards. Learning more about our authors.

    Hot neighbors? I need to move to your neck of the woods.

  • http://woodnotwood.blogspot.com A Geek Girl

    wifegonebad, I’m sorry you don’t have kids, but I believe good things come in time. I’d rather you read it when you do have kids. A good lesson in what not to do.

    Luckily, this is not the norm for the behaviors I see. Most of the kids I meet these days are respectful, but I honestly think they act differently in front of their parents. These types of shows seem to be attention seeking. Pushing limits. I do hope it’s not a sign of what they’ll be like as adults. There’s still time to change, but change never occurs without someone saying it needs to happen.

    So I’m saying it.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I lived in Germany for 5 years. Now that is a beer culture! I loved the fests and the beer seasons there. The release of special beer during certain times in the brewing stages…

    I won’t pick bones with you, Geek Girl. I grew up in Brooklyn and lived in the Bronx, and when I lived there (I moved away 30 years ago – gosh, how time flies!), you could tell where the Jewish neighborhoods ended by where the beer cans began littering the street.

    I lived in Minnesota for about 20 years and the largest ethnic minority in Minnesota/Wisconsin is Germans, followed by the Scandinavians of various flavors, known there as “Skandehoovians”.

    In Minnesota, what you did in your spare time was go to a bar and hoist a few – sometimes more than a few. In St. Paul, on the corner of Randolph and Hamline Avenues, was a liquor store, “Mr. T’s”, and every Friday afternoon, you could see guys carrying out cases of liquor to their pickup trucks – this was just for the weekend.

    It’s a wonder that anyone ever made it to work Monday morning.

    I always thought that we had moved to a relatively liquor-free culture here in Israel. My mouth dropped when I learned that Israel has the second highest per-capita consumption of vodka in the world – right after the Russian Federation!

  • http://www.whalertly.com Robert M. Barga

    It is useful to live on campus, then every other house is filled with hot girls (downside, the other houses are filled with jocks)

    so, you followed my comment on BC to my site, then a link on my site to BC… interesting

  • A Geek Girl

    Ruvy, I grew up in Annapolis. We catered to midshipman. Lots of bars. I miss home very much. The beach, the brick streets, the crab houses. Beer is a must have with crabs.

    I moved around a lot when I was growing up. A blessing and a curse. It lit my gypsy spirit. I hate staying put in one place too long.

  • A Geek Girl

    Robert, yeah. It took me a while to catch up. I went to your site first. I commented about being afraid to take the flu shot. Do remember me? You told me to listen to the Docs. Not sure when I found the BC connection, either on the site or in the yahoo group, but I did follow your Twitter from the group. I remember that quite well because you wrote twiter.com and I had to try to search for you. I had no idea how to search on Twitter.

    Learned something new that day. I hate Twitter search. But what can I say? You write well and I was determined to follow.

    @23 I lived in the barracks in the army. Kind of the same thing except that we had three floors of men to one floor of women.

  • http://www.whalertly.com Robert M. Barga

    @25

    I do remember that now. Hmmm, did you follow me to my site from a comment here?
    On my site I have side links to BC and many links in my posts, so probably something like that

    Thanks for the compliment, I think that I write well too (and so do you)