‘Last week I found myself in a monster shopping mall and I literally panicked. ‘Get me out of here,’ is all I could hear in my head and I furtively looked for exit signs like a trapped rabbit. I even forgot why we were in this consumer hell – or is it heaven? – We were looking for some new sheets, I think. Clare had to take me by the arm and steer me out of this climate-controlled environment and into the pouring rain like a wayward dog. I felt so relieved. ‘There is a restaurant over there. Wait for me there,’ she said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ Two pints or an hour later she showed up with a couple of glitzy bags. ‘Look what I found,’ she gushed, ‘a sweater, a rain jacket and matching shoes. All on sale.’ ‘What about the sheets?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I forgot but those we can get in Gibsons.’ Which left the question why we were here in this shopper’s paradise-hell in the first place.’Continue reading
“Black Friday, Cyber Monday, national shopping holidays next?” I said to Campbell as I sat down, shaking the rain from my hat.
“I take it shopping is not your happy place.”
“I know you run a bookstore Camp and you rely on people shopping for books but what kind of a world is this relentless consumer driven existence. We shop until we drop goes the clichée and unless we participate we perish,” I lamented.
“Camp, you’ve seen that T-shirt that says: ‘Shopping is my Happy Place’?” I asked my learned friend as soon as I sat down at our usual Thursday table in the pub by the sea.
“Well, not in my bookstore,” Campbell said.
“Over the past weekend Clare and I found ourselves with a few hours to kill and like two drifting boats washed into the Park Royal mall carried on a tide of eager shoppers. We were snared by the lure of enticing bargains displayed in glamorous, glittering settings.”
“Of course you ended up with clothes and stuff you didn’t know you needed,” Camp said with a knowing grin taking a sip of the ice cold draught.
“You know that I do most of the shopping for our small household while Clare still brings in a few shekels and takes care of nurturing me and the garden, not necessarily in that order,” I said with a wink.
“Yeah, so what’s this about? I only shop if absolutely necessary. Luckily I get to share most of my dinners these days with Muriel who seems to enjoy my company,” Camp said. “For lunch it’s a dash across the street for a sandwich while watching the front door of the store, which usually remains untouched.”
“I actually like shopping,” I said, somewhat defensively, “because I get to meet people in the store and usually end up chatting to at least one neighbour or acquaintance. Shopping is also a reliable source of local news and I’ve even received investment tips in the checkout line. Mind you those didn’t pan out as promised.”
“You mean it’s a place for gossip, not news, sort of like the town square. You do live an interesting life my friend,” Camp said, “if finding out about the latest discount offer or who just came back from a holiday is considered news.”
I ignored the snide remark and tried to explain, tongue in cheek. “I meet the guys in the meat department and run into women friends in the baking or detergent aisles but I’ve also had interesting chats in the fruit and vegetable department with both. ‘You’re not squeezing that avocado!’ or ‘look at the prices of the asparagus!’usually initiates a conversation. I even promoted your bookstore,” I pointed out. “I saw a guy who I play soccer with looking at a book in London Drugs. “Don’t buy a book in the drug store,” I said, “buy a book in the book store.”
“Thanks for that. I need all the help I can get.”
“And then there is seniors day. First Thursday of every month. Clare got pretty miffed when the cashier asked her if she was entitled to the discount.”
“I realize we’re a consumer society but shopping is definitely not my happy place,” Camp emphasized. “I target-shop or avoid it all together. In fact I wear the same shirt until it disintegrates.”
“I noticed,” I said, “we have a rule that I strictly enforce: something new in – something old out. We always have a bag full of clothes ready for the thrift store. It never fails to amaze me how much stuff we accumulate: clothes, shoes, gadgets, electronics, paper, tools, souvenirs.”
“Don’t forget books and bills,” Camp said.
“And then there are the shopping channels on TV or racks of magazines dedicated to shopping. It makes the world go around as the saying goes but it can also be an addiction,” I said. There is probably a shoppers anonymous.”
“It’s a crazy economy that revolves around buying stuff that we don’t need, accessories that only decorate and shoes that we only wear once. I have one suit that serves for weddings and funerals,” Camp said, “and one tie for all occasions.”
“And what about those high-end fashion stores that offer thousand dollar handbags and handmade shoes for the price of a small compact car.”
“Don’t forget the sports brands,” Camp said.
“Or the fifty jeans makers and work clothes franchises.”
Just at that moment Vicky drifted by checking on thirsty customers like us. “Vicky, where do you do your shopping?” I asked.
“Well now,” she said, cradling a tray of empties. “I eat here at work or at my boy friend’s but for clothes I prefer Sally Ann over the Thrift store.”
“We must have met shopping,” Camp said, “that’s where I buy my clothes.”
“Probably from garments Clare and I donated,” I said. Vicky’s white, sleeveless blouse looked suspiciously familiar.
“You two fashinistas talk shopping? I think you need another beer to calm you down.”