This week I’m reminded of a wedding gift that I had all but forgotten.
My brother David and sister-in-law Janet bought us a brown wicker clothes hamper. I remember it distinctly because Janet asked what we specifically needed following our wedding 40 years ago this year.
Janet had been ill right before we married and didn’t know if she would even be able to attend, but she did.
So a couple weeks after the wedding, they arrived at our home with the hamper and it was perfect. I don’t know what happened to it through the years but two other lesser-quality hampers have filled the void from the demise of the first.
For a couple years now, the more recent hamper was falling apart, the strands of wicker unwinding and even breaking off onto the floor. A new hamper was on my list to buy. How hard would it be to find a sturdy one? Yet I checked one store after another and could not only not find a great new hamper, but not even a lousy inferior one.
Yet I was sure that new hamper lurked around the next aisle in the next store but it never did. There were plenty of college-appropriate collapsibles, and laundry baskets tall as a hamper with a handle on top, perfect for apartment dwellers hauling their dirties to the facilities.
But there was no adult version to be found of a simple clothing hamper.
In his retirement, Brian has become handy with his phone in completing all manner of projects and chores ranging from buying online flights to adeptly using Google Maps.
The mall in our nearest city just folded; the whole mall, not just a few select stores. He predicts that in just a few years,shopping malls will be no more.
So after hearing me lament about the lack of laundry hampers, he hopped onto amazon.com and found many. He landed on a page full of them that looked exactly like the 1978 model my brother and SIL bought us for our wedding. I didn't even have to settle for the one obscure color that a mall store might have and be glad to get it. The online store had the hamper of my dreams in a choice of colors.
I narrowed it down to the chocolate brown that we had 40 years ago, or the “linen” hue that to the less-creative minded, would be off white. It appeared to be a nice match for the “biscuit” (or off white) color of our tub and toilet.
The hamper also arrived, shipped free, in three days.
After this experience, and others I’ve had that I won’t unpack right here, I suspect that Brian may be closer to right than wrong about the future of big malls. The appeal of ordering a perfect product in two minutes that you couldn’t find in two years, combined with a good price, free shipping and no time or gas invested in a futile search certainly has its appeal.
As a young girl and teen, and even years later, I considered a trip to “the mall” a great experience. It was so much fun to go from store to store just looking with my mom, have lunch out at Kresge’s or Woolworth’s, and shop some more.
Sometimes we ordered things from the thick seasonal catalogs from the big-name stores such as Penney’s, Sears or Montgomery-Wards. But usually, those wish books only pointed to the store versions we found on our own Saturdays in the Richmond mall. Mail-order back then meant paying for shipping and handling as well as what would seem today as a long wait.
I haven’t been much of a mall shopper for a long time. While I enjoy shopping in specialty shops and smaller stores in the towns and cities where I live or work, big-city malls long ago lost their appeal to me. I get overwhelmed and then spend too much time looking for something I could have ordered in minutes at home.
What are your thoughts on the future of malls in America?