Sunday, November 28, 2004

Mall of America

After a lovely breakfast of Thanksgiving turkey-and-stuffing omelettes, in celebration of Buy Nothing Day, Lisa and I headed down to the Transit Center on Friday morning to catch a Lextran bus down to the mall.
(There's More...)

Earlier that week, I had taken a couple of white sweatshirts and had decorated them, one as per Adbuster's classic BND paraphernalia, and the other with a Buy Nothing Christmas theme (courtesy of the inspiration of a Mennonite congregation in Canada). I was particularly fond of the simplicity of the scrawled image of a packaged present accompanied by the question "Why not think outside the box?" and that became the front of the latter shirt. On the other sweatshirt was printed a couple of proportioned bare feet representing the comparative ecological footprints of the United States and Bangladesh (at something like a 20:1 ratio).

Donning our gear, we bussed down through the packed, impatient traffic to the great temple of the Fayette Mall. The vast holy see of cars in the parking lot was matched by the vast holy see of shoppers inside. We wandered largely unobtrusively.... generating by my recollection a few smiles from other shoppers, and by Lisa's recollection a few glares from the salespeople, but we mostly managed to be ignored in the overwhelming crowds.

We paused for a bit at the "mountain of love", where the mall, Walmart, a local television station, and some additional retailers were sponsoring a food drive for the Salvation Army. I would have walked right on past, but Lisa suggested that we stop and consider the sight for a moment. The pyramid shelving was stacked with various boxed and canned goods... mostly dried potato flakes, dried stuffing, and canned vegetables, all under the "Great Value" label. A few name-brand products (Campbell's soup, Betty Crocker cake mix, and Quaker oatmeal variety packs) littered the floor. Lisa noted that the various canned peaches and pears dotting the shelves would indeed be coveted at somewhere like the Catholic Action Center, but that most of the donation was of foods aleady presently lining their shelves. We began a quick estimate of the retail value of the mountain, and came to suggestion of somewhere around $1,200. We then turned our attention to the stores around and tried an estimate of the current sales volume of the mall. We peeked at nearby register's for average transaction amounts (e.g. $25 times four cashiers at the Disney store), excluded any shops without a current checkout in progress (jewelery stores were likely candidates for getting skipped), and mapped out a directory to generalize across the mall as a whole. Based on our register espionage, we multiplied a $1,600 transaction load by 8 mall areas (although I argued for 6 instead) for a total "single checkout" volume of $12,800. It seemed a sobering number either way.

We bussed back downtown for a lunch of more Thanksgiving leftovers at Thirdstreet, and then walked out towards Midland Ave. to catch the bus to the shopping haven of Hamburg. Having misread the route, we watched the bus turn ahead of us onto Winchester Road and disappear without us, so we sat down in a nearby park and talked while we waited for the next run, an hour away. If that were our only Lextran foible, we would have done well, but after perusing Hamburg's sprawling shops, we sat down at the bus stop again at 6:30, unaware that the bus service to Hamburg had ended half an hour earlier. With new respect for those who don't have the luxury of car and depend on Lextran for their daily travels, we found a public phone in Meyer and called for a pick up by one of Lisa's housemates.

I think I can say that for Lisa and myself, our rooms are less full of stuff for un-shopping on Buy Nothing Day, and our lives are more full for having spent the day together. I'd like to say "Thank you" to her for that experience. And to Brooke I'd like to say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you again for rescuing us from Hamburg." And to the lady who read our shirts with the confused expression and then before returning to her cart sighed with relief, "Oh, I thought that was something about Christmas," I'll say "It is." And to all I'll note that I found some neat carols we can sing as we get a group together for next year. ;-)

“Joy to the World”

Joy to the World the Love has come
To Liberate us all.
The workers all are poor
From shopping at these stores.
Let heaven and nature sing,
Let heaven and nature sing,
And stop, and stop the shopping.
Joy to the World the Love has come
To Liberate us all.
No one can afford
This birthday for the Lord.
Let's join together and sing,
Let's join together and sing,
And stop, and stop the shopping!

1 comment:

geoff said...

"Oh, I thought that was something about Christmas,"

made me laugh very hard.....well done, friends. i don't know how to escape the tyranny of extremism on both sides of the conversation. perhaps i shouldn't fear extremism, perhaps moderation is the thing to be feared. thank you for your commitment and good-humor. i wrote this little ditty in a fit of self-righteousness to some friends earlier this evening ...and i did buy things on BND. it was stuff i needed, though.

"turkey. boat-loads-of-gravy-and-mashed-taters. ham-by-the-fridge-full. and the shopping. oh (sigh) the shopping.... baby jesus, baby cheeses, s#*t and straw and cattle lowing, going, ...gone! SOLD at a rock bottom bargain price. salvation on the cheap so you can pick ya'self up somethin' nice :)"