All I needed was a couple of pairs of jeans, so I drove out to the almost abandoned mall by the interstate. The place is mostly boarded up and empty, except for one lonely Sears store on the far side, an anchor store that continues to survive even though no one ever finds it if they dont already know its there. The ship has gone down, but the anchor is still doing its job. The mens section is right at the front even though Im pretty sure the nine remaining customers are women, and seven of them are widows. The decision to put the mens section right at the front was probably made by the same guy who decided the large appliances section should be in the basement. You can get a great discount on a refrigerator if youre willing to get it up the escalator yourself, but thats another story. I found the jeans which are always in wooden cubby holes along the back wall, organized by waist size and inseam. Theoretically, anyway, since among the regular sized ones I always seem to find a pair with a 54-inch waist and a 28-inch inseam, which makes me want to get away before the potential buyer shows up. The shortest jeans are also at the very top, so tall guys have to bend down, and those of us who are short are, I guess, expected to scale the cubby holes like its a climbing wall. The decision to put the shorter jeans at the top may have been made by the guy who put the appliances in the basement, or it may have been made by the deranged haberdasher responsible for mens fashion. Sometimes as Im browsing, and I do like to browse through the clothes, I carry on imaginary conversations with this person.
Me: What the hell is this?
Haberdasher: Scotland is very big this year.
Me: It looks like a wool factory ate a case of haggis and threw up on this table. Theres nothing here but sleeveless argyle sweaters.
Haberdasher: Theyre thirty percent off!
Me: Thats because no one’s buying them. You might as well be selling kilts. Actually Id buy one of those if you had the Murray clan pattern. If you do sell kilts dont take the thirty percent off. I dont want to be arrested for indecent exposure.
I did find a couple of things I liked and a few pairs of jeans that fit, so I went to the checkout to stand in line behind seven widows. The woman directly in front of meIm not making this upwanted to exchange the underwear shed bought the week before. The woman behind the register didnt know how to handle exchanges, so had to call someone else over. It gave me time to wonder why clothing stores sell boxes of chocolate truffles at the register. The message seems to be, Feeling fat after trying on clothes? Have some chocolate! Finally after the woman operating the register, whose nametag said she was a Customer Assistance Specialist, called over the Assistant Account Manager, who had to call over the Primary Account Manager, the underwear was exchanged and I was able to pay for my jeans. If only it were that easy. When I buy almost anything else in a storepotato chips, stuffed aardvarks, C-4 explosivetheres the usual exchange about how were both fine today and its good to be fine, and arent we having nice weather, and once Ive handed over my cash or swiped my card I move on. When I’m buying clothes the conversation has to go like this:
Customer Assistance Specialist: Whats your phone number?
Me: Its unlisted.
Customer Assistance Specialist: Maybe I have it in our system. If you tell me what it is I can look it up.
Me: Its unlisted and I want to keep it that way.
Customer Assistance Specialist: Do we have your email address?
Me: Dont email me, Ill email you.
Customer Assistance Specialist: You can get 2.5% off your next purchase.
Me: Thanks, but not today.
Customer Assistance Specialist: Do you have a Sears credit card?
Customer Assistance Specialist: Would you like one?
Me: Not today.
Customer Assistance Specialist: Youll get 1.7% off your next purchase.
Me: My wallet is overstuffed already. If I add anything else Ill have to get rid of something important, like my Commander USA fan club card.
And then my receipt is printed and with it comes a ream of coupons that expire in two hours.
Its an old cliché that men dont like to shop for clothes, but I think its really more complicated than that. I like getting new clothes. Im not a fashion-oriented kind of guy, but I like being able to wear something new into work once in a while. Really its not the shopping that I hate. Its the accessories.