Well, wonders never cease. At the mall?!?!

I’m not a mall person.

Neither a shopper.

I cannot say that more emphatically.

I’d rather get a root canal than wade through merchandise. In fact, I’ve had probably 10 root canals in my time but that has more to do with having inherited the paternal bad teeth than an aversion to shopping. Women’s fashions, perfumes and cosmetics, they’re the worst!!

So how is it that I’m at the Tacoma Mall?

Blame it on an act of goodwill and charity.

I volunteered to help the food bank collect roadside donations in the mall parking lot.

After a couple hours in the gray wind, I’m cold. And bored. So I buck up and brace myself for the mall, fueled by thoughts of warmth and strolling to see the decorations and the Salvation Army’s Giving Tree. Because God strike me down if this isn’t truth but I will help others in need first even when I myself am in need. In fact, I’ll go out of my way to help others. Even to the mall.

The crowds aren’t nowhere near what you’d expect at the holidays. Either this government’s feeding bullshit about economic recovery — imagine that, lies from this administration! — or shoppers are waiting until the 11th hour. Either way, sparse crowds make the place surprisingly manageable and pleasant. For a mall.

It’s as I’m exiting See’s Candy that we meet.

By the way, do you know that a pound of chocolates now costs 16 bucks?!? I went in to check the cost for my mother’s gift chocolates. No, really. Those prices are incentive to diet!

I leave empty-handed. No, really.

And that’s when we meet, the young skinny dude with a goatee, hair in a ponytail and clipboard in his hands.

Would I be interested in taking a survey?

Haha, is he a lucky boy!!! I love stuff like that! Surveys, market research, focus groups! As an ardent consumer activist with a strong sense of mutual accountability between consumers and companies, I jump at the chance to participate.

First he establishes whether I qualify. At any given time, they’re conducting a variety of surveys, sampling males or females from various age groups and so on.

He checks for my age. Like any smart old lady, I respond with the 10-year bracket.


I’m eligible for two surveys. “They’re both food. Do you like food?”

I point to the See’s store behind me. Okay, I lie but would’ve had I thought of it.

I’m escorted to the market research office. “I had no idea this was here!” I exclaim. “Yeah, it’s tucked back here.” No. I am just that mall illiterate.

After answering a zillion basic questions — oh, I should inject that I’ve agreed to participate ONLY after rigorously ascertaining that there’s no scamming here or unwanted phone calls or kidnapping of my firstborn in my future — I’m led into a test room just big enough to contain a small desk with a computer, a couple of chairs and at most eight people and only if they really like one another.

The smell of pasta wafts in the air.

Data is entered into the computer. A lot of time is spent sitting or waiting. Market surveys: no good if you’re in a rush, I note to myself.

Finally a blue-green plastic tray arrives and is placed before me. It holds precisely: (1) plastic cup of water, (1) package of two saltines, (1) white plastic fork and (1) styrofoam bowl containing curled pasta lightly topped with a red sauce.

After being instructed to cleanse my palate with the crackers and water — oh, cleansing the palate, so this is how the upper crust dines! — I’m told to consume the pasta.

Question after question about the sauce ensue. What do I like about it. What don’t I like. Would I feel good about serving this? How’s the color excellent, good, fair, neither good nor bad, poor, very poor? The fragrance? The herbs? Beaucoup questions requiring ranking on a scale.

Between my discerning palate and enthusiasm for articulating feedback, I’m having a grand ol’ time!

After some 15 minutes, I sign off on a participants’ sheet and depart with half a cup of sauced pasta in my belly and 3 bucks in my pocket. Three dollars I didn’t have going in.

I’m gonna hafta revamp my view of the mall.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bizemom
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 14:10:37

    You may have just swayed me to entertain those poor survey pushers next time I am cornered at the mall. Pasta is the way to my heart!


    • allycatadventures
      Dec 12, 2010 @ 14:26:09

      @bizemom – Clearly I wasn’t Italian in a recent past life because I’m almost as indifferent to pasta as to pizza. I don’t know your age and of course your mall survey needs may be different but the skinny dude told me that they have a hard time getting the, uh, not-so-young folks to participate because they’re wary of scams. Which is a good thing, I encourage cynicism at every turn in life. Nonetheless, he said I stand a good chance of getting in on more surveys for that reason. Without revealing too much prematurely, guess where I’ve been since the pasta poll …


  2. mkirkd
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 17:25:24

    I so hate malls and shopping. I never go to the mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas…wait I rarely ever go to the mall anytime of the year. Mostly if there is something that I have to go to the mall for, I park next to the store run in buy it and leave never going into the mall.

    Nice that you got a hot meal and some $s for all your time, that is great. I never knew there were food surveys…maybe I need to readjust my mall-a-phobia.


    • allycatadventures
      Dec 12, 2010 @ 20:16:19

      @mkirk – lol, you’ve got the mall routine down, girl! Yeah, food surveys are fun! The skinny dude told me about an an energy drink survey set for the next day … for $25 ! Unfortunately I couldn’t make it. I tell ya, I’m really learnin’ to like the mall!


  3. countrybydesign
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 18:00:01

    LOL I did one mall survey, years ago, but it wasn’t about food, and I don’t think I got paid either. Bummer! I can’t remember the last time I went to the mall for any reason. Oh, wait! During spring break my daughter and I took the kids to the movies at the mall. We saw Alice in Wonderland. Actually I like malls. I like shopping, especially if I have money. One of my fondest memories is from a day I spend at the mall with all three of my daughters. Perhaps I like them so much because I rarely go there, for any reason!


    • allycatadventures
      Dec 12, 2010 @ 20:33:00

      @CbD – Yeah, the skinny dude told me that some surveys pay nothing, some a few bucks and some as much as $25!

      The Tacoma mall isn’t that big and only one floor so it’s not bad, far as malls go. The Mall of America in Minnesota, and the nation’s biggest, now *that* is scary! Some interesting tidbits:

      * 520+ stores are in Mall of America
      * 7 Yankee Stadiums can fit inside;
      * 32 Boeing 747s could fit inside;
      * 25 rides and attractions in the mall’s Nickelodeon Universe;
      * 65 semi trucks were needed to transport trees to the theme park to create the outdoor feel of an indoor park;
      * It’d take you 86 hours to complete your visit if you spent only 10 minutes in each store.
      * 400+ events are held at the mall every year;
      * 5,000+ weddings have been performed;
      * 12,550 on-side parking spaces
      * 40 million visitors annually, which is more than the combined populations of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa … and Canada

      Reckon you’d find more than one movie theater to satisfy you and yours! 😀


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