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12/24/98 The Parking Lot
12/10/98 Mountains
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11/12/98 The Car Salesman
10/29/98 What Is Money?
10/15/98 Sick People
10/01/98 Baseball
09/17/98 Dollars and Sense

The Mall

Is anyone keeping track of the turnover rate for shops in today's mall? They should hang a sign outside reading, "Home of the 12-Hour Lease." You find a store that you like one week, come back the following, and boom -- it's gone.

I walked into a boutique yesterday to buy a centerpiece for Yahaira and became occupied with a display in the corner. By the time I looked up, the boutique had turned into a shoe store and I was holding a candelabra.

Of course, now I was in a shoe store, so there was pressure to buy something. That's my biggest reservation about shopping at a mall -- the commissioned salesperson. It's epidemic, this cutthroat competition in which we play the pawns. I felt the clerk nearing from behind, sizing me up, appraising my jewelry. Overhead you could hear the music to Jaws. I played the girl clinging to the buoy.

"Hi," said the salesman. "I couldn't help but notice that you're holding a candelabra. I've got the perfect pair of shoes to go with it."

"No, thank you," I said, "I was just --"

"Of course you'll need new socks to compliment those shoes. You wouldn't want to be unfashionable. I've got a 16-pack that should save you some money."

I tried to object, but there was already a pair of shoes on my feet. What frightened me more was that in lieu of a price tag, I found a label reading, Market Price.

"Yes," the salesman said, "this is genuine buffalo leather pre-treated in our factory back east. I feel obligated to sell you some buffer with these shoes since they are subject to change over time. We happen to have the best buffalo buffer in the business."

I gazed back at the salesman and asked, "What about the boutique I walked into. Should I just take this candelabra?" "Boutiques are out, sir. Shoes are in. Will that be cash, check or charge?" Before I could answer, the man had been to my wallet and back and was swiping my American Express card (one time when I should have left home without it). There I stood, purchasing the best buffalo buffer in the business without ever having reached for my money.

Upon leaving the store, I noticed that I had forgotten my receipt, so I turned around and saw that the shoe store had become a perfume shop. A perfume shop?!

I stepped into the new store and asked the sales lady what had become of the shoe store. "Oh, their lease was up. Can I help you?"

"Oh. No, thanks. I just wanted to return -- "

"To better health," she said, brandishing a box of anti-bacterial lotion. "And this box is on sale for $14.95. Unless you have more shopping to do, I can ring it up at this register here."

I made the mistake of stuttering for an answer, during which time the woman rang up the charge. I tried to not make eye contact with any of the other products in the store. I didn't want to give her the wrong impression.

I stumbled back into the middle of the mall, a double-dupe. Hungry from all this involuntary shopping, I looked for a place to eat. I went to Swensen's, but it was gone. I went to the Magic Pan, but it was gone. I went to Taco Bell, but it was gone. I decided to walk into the pizza place for a slice, but by the time I reached the register the store had become an art gallery. I started to leave, but it was too late. The Jaws music had begun...

"Yes, sir, a fine choice indeed. I was just eyeing that piece myself before you came in. Will that be cash, check or charge..."


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