Shopping (by flickr user ebruli,

The Modern Shopping Experience

Shopping (by flickr user ebruli,
Shopping (by flickr user ebruli,

Shopping a department store is not what it used to be.

I joined my wife at the store recently as we went to spend a gift card she had received.  As we walked from rack to rack of clothing for every conceivable taste, I reflected on the experience.

First, when you walk in the door, you have to know where you are going or you will be lost…bet on it.  If you happen to come in as a man, it isn’t too confusing.  You head to the men’s department, you look for your size, you buy what you need.  That hasn’t changed for years.  Not even the advertising has changed.  Since Father’s Day is rolling up soon, there are signs everywhere reminding you that it is coming and what day it’s on.  Why?  Because nothing communicates your love and appreciation for your father than a tie or shirt that he didn’t ask for.  Most definitely he’ll enjoy that Jerry Garcia tie, even if he wasn’t a fan of the Grateful Dead.  But I digress.

Heading for the part of the store that contains women’s clothing is an adventure in and of itself.  You will find departments for just about everyone.  The average shopper will have their head spinning going from Petite to Women’s to Maternity to Juniors to any other countless label that you can put on clothes.  The real adventure is discovering what section you’ve stumbled into.  Not all are labelled until you find yourself in the middle of them.

Then, while you are shopping, the store decides that you need some music to help you shop.  However, what I heard was a mix of music that really pleases no one.  All sorts of current popular stuff intermixed with remakes of old songs from every genre permeates the store.  None of it is recognizable, apart from the feeling of general familiarity that you get from a remake.  You know, the kind that makes you long to hear the original instead of whatever it is that I’m being forced to listen to?

Add to it the volume with which they call each other throughout the store.  Speaking from my own perspective, after 20 years in an industry where I would daily put on a set of headphones, I have probably lost a good portion of my hearing.  Still, every time an announcement came over the speaker, it was somewhere along the lines of, “SHARON, DIAL 4-22…SHARON 4-2-2 PLEASE.”  Could someone please tell them that shouting is not necessary?  They do make microphones for that.  After hearing this, I came to the conclusion that either the entire staff of the store was hearing impaired, I really am not as bad off in the hearing department as I thought, or its just plain too loud.  I’ll let you know what it is later when I get the ringing in my ears gone from the loudspeaker.

Add to all of this some of the signs that you see.  One of my favorites was a sign advertising bras for women.  It announced that a certain brand ran for a certain price or under.  My understanding of bras are that they all are under, but not actually having had to wear one, I can only speculate on that.

All told, that is the standard formula for a headache or a shopping excursion these days and sometimes you wonder if they are synonymous.  Still, I guess at the end of the day, shopping is not something that is made for the average guy.  Let’s face it men, if you are like me, you get in, get what you need and get out without noticing much of anything.

I guess it all is a great reminder of the blessing that shopping online is.  No loud announcements, no blaring music unless its something that you are playing on Spotify or from your ipod that you really enjoy and at the end, you have something that you can look forward to.

I guess, come to think of it, the shopping experience hasn’t changed much over the years.  In the end, you are trying to get the best bargain possible on the stuff that you need.  The rest of it is window dressing.  Really loud, annoying, dizzying window dressing.  I think I need a break.