Sunday, March 13, 2005

National Review on Shopping

Catherine Seipp on NRO comments about the demise of the department store:
Still, we're losing something as the big stores fade from the scene, even if it's less an efficient or agreeable shopping experience than a collective cultural memory.
Indeed, I'm just old enough to remember the downtown department stores in Cincinnati (Pogues? Shilitos? I date myself, but not as bad as that sales rep I had in who was talking about the '12 Million Dollar Man' or something). For as grand as these stores were, I'm sure the Cincinnati version paled in comparison to those in other cities; however, they were grand.

Of course they were done in by the poor imitations of themselves in the suburbs. The suburbian stores featured many of the same products, at about the same price (albeit closer location). These stores would even cram in some sort of nice restaurant to try and mimic the downtown experience. Unfortunately, even the poor imitators, who have already changed considerably, are going by the wayside from the assaults of the big box retailers.

These big boxers are the end of this devolution: stripped of all class, originality, and most customer service. I'm not a big Walmart basher and I do shop there on occasion, but lets be honest, if you go to a Walmart you're looking for crap, and you're looking to buy it and get the hell out. I don't mind the existence of stores that specialize in selling cheap crap, but little did I know that the 'cheap crap' would win and that it would become increasingly difficult to buy anything decent anymore without getting gouged.

This is the true lament of the end of the big department stores: it used to be common to be able to go someplace that wasn't completely drained of class and buy something at a decent price that was real. Also, the reason I and many other people have, at the very least, a love/hate relationship with Walmart is that it seems to be the physical manifestation of everything we dislike about American society today: crass attitude (poor service), live for today (cheap crap that you might as well buy a subscription to it lasts such a short time), utilitarianism (a complete lack of beauty).

Solution? No solution, I'm just venting. And the fact that there is no solution makes those of us that remember all the more nostalgic for the good old days.

(I'm full of it, I know. I loved going to the department stores in Japan which hearken back to the days of old. My first thought when I went in was "this place is absolutely cool". My second thought, upon seeing the prices, was "I would never shop here". It was a Sogo and I read that they had gone through a bankruptcy fairly recently, so I guess Japanese don't shop there too much either).

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