They say we are still in a recession. “They” are Paul Kruger of the New York Times, the only economics source I trust and understand, and a sleuth of news outlets. My wallet concurs. Not that you would know it strolling around the Grove in LA on a Sunday afternoon. After twenty minutes spent trying to park, the genie of parking clearly having ditched me, I descended into the hell made of throngs of people who are eating, shopping, catching a movie or just passing time at the Grove. I am leaving tomorrow and I clearly left the shopping on behalf of my South African friend to the very last possible minute. Only my love for her wold spur me to shop on a Sunday.
The gaping hole of the Abercrombie and Fitch entrance beckons although I know I will be the oldest person on the three dark and loud floors packed with pretty photos, pretty clothes and pretty people trying to imitate the look. I try to locate a sales assistant in the darkness that makes the place more reminiscent of a night club than a store. Actually, the whole experience is more similar to a night club – shouting over the deafening music, admiring people, avoiding people, walking around aimlessly pretending to have a purpose.
The reason why it’s hard to locate a sales associate is because customers and employees alike are wearing the same uniform: plaid shirts for the guys and barely- covering- vagina mini-skirts for the girls. And they are all 12.Finally blonde dude decides he is going (reluctantly) to help this old lady – no, that jacket in grey doesn’t exist. Yes, it does, it’s in your catalogue. Blank stare. Let me check.
Five minutes go by while I try hard to ignore the music but I am impotent against the air freshener that is clearly piped into the air all over the store – it feels like my lungs are seizing. Blonde dude comes back. We don’t carry it. Ok, I will take the red one in a medium then. Let me check. He walks away and five minutes later comes back empty-handed but with cute girl in tow who starts rummaging under a pile of t-shirts to find a catalogue. Endless consultation – at this point I am actually fascinated. Blonde dude says – She is going to check. I have been in this store for 20 minutes, I am asking for an item that is clearly on display and it dawns on me that the recession is the least of our problems – we will never get out of it if the latest generational crop hired by a high-end, hip store clearly received a sub par education, can’t grasp the basic rules of customer service and, worst of all, lacks problem solving skills. I walk out in frustration and jacket-less- they are still probably looking for itas I type. No wonder shopping on-line is fast becoming the preferred method of acquiring goods. As pleasant, in all its fake glory, the Grove is why brave traffic, parking lots and blonde 12 year olds when my Mac will help me deliver to my doorstep what I want (and, alas, also what I don’t want but seemed such a good buy on my screen)?
To forget my shopping woes I replenish my belly with a vast amount of Thai food from my favourite restaurant nearby. Lovely customer service, no people standing in line and pad thai in all the colours and flavours I want.