Mall Madness

“Shop ’til you drop” takes on a whole new meaning as the holidays approach

I love shopping. After a long week, there’s nothing better than some good old retail therapy. That is, until the holiday season comes around and turns the relaxing process of perusing my favorite Valley malls, outlets, and gallerias into more of a no-holds-barred, anxiety-riddled quest to find the perfect present.

Sure, there are people out there who find joy in parking a mile away from the entrance (“It’s good exercise,” they’ll say) and who are capable of weaving seamlessly in and out of the crowds, locating everything they need at a great sale price. My not-so-merry mall experiences, however, tend to consist of leaping out of the way of texting-while-walking teens; inching forward like herded cattle on seemingly endless checkout lines (only to find out — oops! — that the item I want is mismarked and actually not on sale); then facing the certainty that by the time I actually leave, I will have forgotten where I parked my car.

But I know I’m not the only retail Grinch. Look around and you’ll see — hidden among the jolly masses — the rest of us shell-shocked Scrooges, cowering on the outskirts of the food court (because every seat is taken), gnawing our nails to the cuticle. There’s the awkward dad who ventures into Victoria’s Secret to buy his wife a little somethin’-somethin’ and — to his horror — gets a good, long look at the type of lingerie his teenage daughter’s been buying. In another store, the germaphobic mom stands in line at the checkout counter, growing increasingly anxious as the person behind her hacks out a cough louder than a snow plow; reaching the breaking point, she flings her carefully selected Hickory Farms basket on the counter and runs for the hand sanitizer aisle faster than you can say “swine flu.” And the most frightening: the determined mother of a demanding teen. We’ve all seen her confidently stroll up to a sales associate (usually some naive college kid):

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Mom: “My daughter texted me a picture of this cardigan. I need it in the color Sedona Sunset.”
Associate: “We’re actually out of that color. How about, um, blue?”
Mom: “How about you get Santa’s elves back in that stock room and find me a Sedona Sunset!” Then, sweetly, “Size medium, please.”

I’ve found, however, that the experience of holiday mall shopping can be less harrowing as long as certain unspoken rules are followed. For example, avoid those bargain bins — unless you’re prepared for an all-out tug-of-war over the last irregular Armani marked down to $10.

But then — when the credit cards are maxed and my wallet contains more receipts than money — like a horrible houseguest, I’m actually somewhat sad to see the shopping season go. Because in the end, it’s all worth it to see the smiles on the faces of my dear friends and family as they unwrap their presents — even when their thank-yous are followed by, “You asked for a gift receipt, right?”

» Still fazed by the holiday shopping frenzy? Check out our holiday gift guide (from the safety of your home, of course)

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