Monday, December 29, 2008

A Trip to the Mall.....

A friend came by the other day and said "Let's go to the Mall!"

To me, this is akin to saying "Let's have our wisdom teeth removed without anesthesia!"

But I went anyway. What are friends for?

As I noted in my earlier article, "Shop 'till You Drop!", one sure way to squander money is to "shop" for things you don't really need or want. And clothes is probably the #1 area you can squander dough. As I noted, one friend literally went bankrupt shopping for clothes.

The Mall is an interesting place - designed like a Casino - to separate you from your cash. Malls and mall stores are not accidentally put together. The ambiance and environment is designed to promote consumerism and induce you to buy. So just by going there, you are immediately at a disadvantage. So the best thing to do is not go, period.

If your truly NEED to buy something. make a list and then go get what you need. But going to see "what's available" will inevitably end up with you buying things that you do not need or want - and ratcheting up your credit card debt another notch.

Most of the clothing stores are alarmingly aimed at the young - and by that I mean the very, very young - teenagers and below. Older people are less fashion-conscious, so there is little point in marketing to them with flashy gear. But the malls are chock full of stuff aimed at the 20-and-below set.

Much of the clothes for sale were pretty laughable, too - at least to anyone over 30. Once again, the fashion designers have decided that "distressed jeans" are "in" this year. We went through this 20-30 years ago with stone washing, acid washing, and distressing, remember? As teens, we would wash our brand new jeans a dozen times or more, or sandpaper the knees to give it that "distressed" look. Only a dork would wear NEW jeans to school, right?

The problem with the new "distressed" look it that it is so obviously fake. In fact, the more fake the look is, the more popular it is. Really distressed jeans are not "in", so my well-worn and holey car-repair pants (battery acid will distress the best jeans, pronto!) are not hip. Instead, you need a pair that look like some Chinese sweatshop worker haphazardly applied some "distressing" to them when they were flat. The wear points are in all the wrong places, and the "fake wear" is little more than a dye. Like fake "distressed" leather, this stuff will surely look horrible once it really wears.

Going back to the future further, the trend of putting the name of the store in huge letters on every item of clothing seems to be back. I can still remember the first time in school when someone wore a Benneton sweater to school with the name BENNETON plastered across the front of the sweater. Or the first time we saw clothing with the labels sewn on the outside. "Hey, your shirt is on inside-out" we all said. Little did we know then, that this trend would presage the whole idea of status clothing - where brand and label meant more than quality and style - and consumers could be induced to advertised brand names all over their bodies as though they were like NASCAR drivers.

Fast-forward 30 years, and not much has changed in fashion. There is still a lot of money to be made selling poorly made clothing to insecure adolescents, if they think it will make them "look cool," right? Remember Chess King? Geez, what were we thinking?

Anyway, we got out of the mall for about a hundred bucks. I even succumbed to buying a pair of flannel pajama bottoms at Aeropostal or something or other. It said $16, which was 70% off list price. So it was a bargain, right? Not exactly. These things are made in Taiwan or Indonesia for about $2 apiece, so they still made out all right at "70% off!!" And do you really think anyone pays the full rate on any of this junk? Of course not.

One of us bought a dress shirt, which I suppose might get used someday (add it to the other shirts in the closet) and another bought a down vest, which here in Georgia is sure to be practical. And yes, everything was on sale, 70% off, blah, blah, blah.

It was a classic example of "if you go, you'll buy". It's like if you go to the pound to "look at" a dog, you'll probably come home with a dog. This is not necessarily a bad thing - if you want a dog. But I am not sure I was desperately in need of new pajama bottoms, but here I am with them, right? No one is immune from the pressure of the marketplace. So just don't go, unless you are really in need.

For me, this is not a major problem. It's like smoking. Someone can offer me a cigarette and since I don't smoke, it is no big deal. I'm not a smoker. But some folks are addicted to cigarettes. And some are addicted to shopping.

If you go, you'll spend. It is as simple as that. If you don't go, you won't spend. Find another hobby or another outlet. And by outlet, I don't mean a discount outlet.

Now, if I can just find the receipt for those pajama bottoms......maybe I can take them back.