We women have a variety of coping mechanisms and stress-reduction tactics. Some healthy, some maybe not so much. And some are just plain stereotypical. Like consuming chocolate. Like talking for hours to a BFF. Like Retail Therapy. Don’t you get all eye-roll on me, you ladies know there’s some truth to these clichéd references. Sure, there are better things we could do for ourselves, like go for a run and eat kale. But you just gotta admit that sometimes nothing beats an Oreo to sooth the beast within, a gab-fest with a soul sista, or finding the best deal ever on a clearance rack. Especially now, when the rest of the world seems so scary and crazy and out of control, these simple pleasures can go a long way to easing our stress.
But I’m a bit worried, my sisters in stress…. It seems that one of our remedies seems to be slowly eroding before our very eyes. Kind of like losing a favorite therapist, the joy and appeal of Retail seems to be fading.
For quite some time now, we’ve been aware that online shopping has become the #1 way to purchase whatever it is we are looking for. Amazon continues to grow and expand rapidly like the Demogorgon on Stranger Things (except not so slimy and spooky). Can’t beat the convenience of finding just about anything you need while sitting on the sofa in jammies and having it arrive to the door in two days. Virtually every retailer has an online presence. So why go out and about at all, when we are all getting to the point where leaving the house seems frightening? Because tapping on the keyboard is not like browsing the aisles, picking things up to actually feel and see the quality and material, and – dare I say it – having in-person human contact. And getting together with the girls is a whole lot more fun going store to store instead of crowding around a laptop.
Lately I’ve curtailed my shopping due to some necessary budget belt-tightening at home. I haven’t purchased more than the necessities in a while. However the holidays are coming, and the grocery store just isn’t effective therapy (quite the opposite, but that’s a post for another day). So this past weekend I ventured out to pick up a few things. First stop was a Hallmark store, because I had received on of their booklets in the mail with coupons for new holiday items. I drove to the small mall near us and discovered the Hallmark store is no longer there. As a matter of fact, over half of the mall is empty, because no one wants to shop in malls anymore. Checked my phone and determined the next closest Hallmark store is 30 – 40 minutes away. Ok, make a note, hop online later and order the items from home. Next stop, Target. Not really because I wanted to browse for gifts, but because I needed boring things like a mattress pad and shoe inserts for my son. However, once again, I had received a nifty little booklet from them in the mail, promoting the new “Hearth & Hand” home décor items and was interested in a couple of the cute pieces in the catalog. Headed to that department, and nope. Those items were not there. Make a note, hop online later and order the items from home. See a pattern here?
One more stop at Francesca’s gift shop. Ahhh, here’s my therapy, looking at cute girlie gifty things, picking things up, putting them down, getting ideas for the holidays. I eventually make my selection of three small inexpensive items and head to the register. Exchanged pleasantries with the two women behind the counter. How nice. Checked my watch because by now I need to get back to reality, this particular therapy session needed to come to a close. Then BAM. We interrupt this pleasant experience with the store computer locking up. One woman explained to the other, and to me, that it is a new system and they were told to “expect it to lock up occasionally.” What?? The three of us awkwardly then stood around doing nothing while they re-booted. I did another loop around the store, although I had no intention of buying anything else. I considered not buying anything, and just leaving. But no, I had come this far, I was determined to leave with my souvenirs. Here’s the kicker. I was spending a grand total of about $20, and was paying in cash. Yet they could do nothing about getting me out of there until the system came back to life. One of the women said “gee, I hope this doesn’t happen on Black Friday.” I made a mental note not to return on Black Friday.
When I finally left, I texted a BFF about what had happened. She responded saying that she too had been out and about over the weekend, and had felt like everything was complicated and delayed, and that it was becoming less appealing to retail shop. Oh, no, say it isn’t so! Could one of the activities that is supposed to bring us joy and relax us, actually be shifting to a point where it could cause more stress and anxiety? I walked away also sadly considering that it is no wonder more of us are turning to the digital world for our “shopping”. I refuse to call our online purchases Retail Therapy. It is just yet more screen time, spending money devoid of emotion, getting what we need the easiest way possible.
Well, at least it is supposed to be easy. Remember the item I couldn’t find at Target? I got home, logged on, looked it up, and there next to the product was the statement: Available In-Store Only.
Whoo boy. It’s gonna be a long holiday season. Guess I’m better off staying home and making baked goods as gifts this year. Which will require a trip back to the grocery store. I may need a real therapist.