Open the drawer, give me the change you said would do me good

Middle class retail is so dead now.

Bob and I went on an expotition yesterday to get him some clothes. Off to Adventure 16 we went! He needed some swim trunks from Patagonia and a jacket and pants thing from Sierra Design that folds up into its own bag.

Because it’s September, the store had no swim trunks. They’re still in the Patagonia catalog, however. We asked if they could order them for us, and they indicated that this might be possible. They all stood there looking uncomfortable; we were the only customers in the store. It was clear that they just wanted us to leave.

One employee did find a jacket (but no pants) of the folds-into-its-own bag line. We again asked if they could be ordered for store delivery and there was another uncomfortable silence with mumbling. The manager had his back to us most of the time and was on the phone otherwise, and fiddling with pieces of paper.

We left. Expotition: failed.

Today we met at Panera and I fired up the laptop. The Patagonia website had the swim trunks he wanted at half price, $18 instead of $36. We got him three pair. The Sierra Designs site had the pants he wanted and referred us to the REI site, where we bought those as well.

The REI site wanted us to go to a store to pick up the stuff, and pointed out it was FREE! shipping this way. So we clicked that button, only to find out that “items for store pickup may have an extended delivery time compared to mail delivery.” Clearly they just wait for your item to show up in the regular weekly shipments and then at some time you get a phone call. Fuck that. We spent the shipping charge for Internet order.

When I was a kid, there were lots of stores. We had department stores, toy stores, specialty hobby stores, hardware stores, discount stores, all kinds! Some of the stores were in malls and others were not. Not all of them were chains.

That’s just gone now. The department stores were eaten by the big box chains. Same with toys and hardware. The discount stores became the big box stores. Everything is a chain.

Now it’s all poor folks or rich folks, no bourgeois. The middle-class shopping experience has disappeared. If you have a shitload of money you can go to Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus or some boutique place like Restoration Hardware and blow five bills on a few things. If not, you’re going to Target or Wal-Mart.

Bob is 60 so he finds this incomprehensible. But he likes the Internet. Click, click, done. He gave me $140 in cash to buy his shit with my laptop and then we had iced tea and bullshitted.

15 thoughts on “Open the drawer, give me the change you said would do me good

  1. Re: “Expotition”
    It’s what they called it in the Winnie-the-Pooh books when they went on a trip. Became my family slang for going anywhere in a group.

  2. This is so true that it makes me whine internally the whole time I’m reading it.
    Seriously, it’s low quality shit for what I STILL consider to be way overpriced crap or way too much money for something at the MALL (ew) supporting companies I despise.
    Thankfully, I have time to thrift shop on a regular basis so my need to buy clothing items retail is small if not nil.

  3. Maybe this rotting out of the middle retail is just more pronounced in California, but yeah, going to a normal department store, or smallish local in-town store to get CLOTHES seems like quaint anachronism. And Target pretty much is the closest thing to that kind of department store — they are cheap and cheerful, so they’ve cleaned up by catering to bargain hunters and people with more money who like to save money on some things so they can buy luxury goods elsewhere.
    Some towns in rural areas still have department stores of manageable size with good prices — we went to one called Reny’s in Rockland, Maine last month and had fun picking out a few things.

    1. Small towns in rural areas
      In 2002, I moved to Juneau, Alaska, which is a place big on MFAs routinely making informed decisions about their 401(k)
      plans. And people there told me “get used to ordering
      stuff thru the mail!” By which, of course, they
      meant: thru the Web, arriving in the mail.
      Even moving down to Ketchikan, where there is a Walmart,
      same deal. There are two exceptions: a “marine supply” store where you can buy, well, “foulweather gear”, but that includes raincoats and
      rainboots that you don’t need to be at sea to use; and an honest to god “general store” that’s huge, occupies both sides of the street, and where you can get proper shoes and clothes not actually redolent of the
      polymer-and-slavery mills of Chinastan.
      Otherwise, “the shops” in the downtown area have been rent-displaced
      stores that spend six months a year selling tourist tat (and TANZANITE?!) for the (increasing, ever
      increasing) <a href=
      “http://interglacial.com/d/photos/2004-06-17_with_photocruise/so_many_people”
      >cruise-ship crowds; and then simply board up
      for the other six months (i.e., moving to the Caribbean
      for the “winter” cruises there). “The shops” are squeezed by that at the same time they’re squozen by the whole web-ordering thing. Like there’s a nice, pretty, friendly
      independent bookstore in town; but adding over the past four years, I don’t think I’ve spent there even one hundredth of what I’ve spent at Amazon and Powell’s.
      So, in this general respect, Alaska is, for once, actually anticipating a national trend. i.e.,
      “get used to ordering stuff thru the mail!”.

      Also, don’t call a Walmart ever about anything. They shouldn’t even bother answering the phones there, for all the good that calling them does.

    1. Bilagaana
      I adore that I can say that I live on an island off the
      coast of America and mess with people’s minds when they
      think I mean Manhattan.

  4. I wonder if I will be still living when the last bourgeois is killed and skinned. Once I would have gloried at the sight, but now it wouldn’t mean revolution! – it would mean I’ve become a lumpenprole, along with almost everyone else, and that we’re living out what we’re pleased to call our “lives” in some kind of high-density service-sector feed lot for the truly wealthy, who rule not so much like suzerains as like the aliens in Battlefield Earth.

  5. Useless comment, but that is such a good song. If you have a Patagonia outlet somewhere vaguely nearby, that might be a better option. Slight miss-sewings, old years, unpopular colors, very cheap.

  6. This isn’t remotely the point, and yet I can’t help focusing on it. Why does Bob need a jacket and pants that fold up into their own bag? Is he in to back packing or something? Or is he just fond of wrinkles?

  7. I’m offended that whenever you go into most stores, the place looks like a war zone and they never seem to have WHAT YOU NEED stocked. Irritating and a waste of time.

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