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No buy-in during the crowd crunch

By the time you read this, I will be in Minnesota, awaiting the birth of my third grandchild. My daughter and her husband chose to not learn the sex of the baby beforehand, so it will be a surprise for us all. My 3-year-old granddaughter cannot decide if she wants a baby sister or baby brother, so one of each is her wish. That’s not happening. Thank goodness!

While in the Twin Cities area I will, of course, visit the Mall of America. I used to live seven minutes away from the mall, door to door. While I love strolling the mall, people watching and window shopping, I am not a particularly avid shopper in crowds. I have, however, done Black Friday at the Mall of America. The odd thing is, it really didn’t feel like the busiest shopping day of the year because the Mall is so big, even thousands of shoppers didn’t make it feel crowded

The same cannot be said of Walmart on Thanksgiving. In preparation for this trip, my husband and I ventured out to the store late Thanksgiving afternoon. We assumed the die-hard bargain hunters had already descended, picked up their treasures and gone home. Boy were we wrong!

Walmart opened at 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, I think. However, all the “bargains” were shrink wrapped and cordoned off, not to be touched until precisely 6 p.m. We wove our way through crowds of shopping carts, all congregated in the middle of the aisles, people gaily chatting with one another over the deals they hoped to find. Entire sections of the store were blocked off with yellow caution tape.

All we wanted was a bag of cat food and some Airborne. In order to get to the pharmacy, located in the middle of the store, we were directed to go to the back of the store (televisions, computers & movies), hang a left and follow the arrows to the middle of the store and pharmacy. No problem, except for dodging shopping carts driven by children and old ladies.

Animal food, located at the opposite end of the store proved a little trickier. Back of the store, hang a right at Kitchen Ware, go around Bed and Bath (not through), and hang another left at the front of the store.

Whew! We separated to divide and conquer the short list of things we needed, picked up the items, and then tried to get to check out. We discovered you can’t get there from here – or anywhere. Following a maze of arrows taped to the floor, I found myself looking at the registers, but unable to access them. They had been cordoned off until 6 p.m.

“But my husband is right there, see? By the end of the row of registers. Can’t I just slip under this tape and join him?”

“Sorry, ma’am, you have to go back to women’s clothing, through the shoe department, around the jewelry counter. You’ll see the arrows on the other side of jewelry where you can get to the registers.”

In the meantime, it was approaching the witching hour and hundreds of customers were lining the aisles, waiting for the tape to be cut, the sale items to be freed from their plastic bondage, and the frenzy of holiday shopping to begin. We finally met at the checkout lane, were challenged as to our purchases (no Christmas or sale items allowed yet), and were watched closely as we scanned our meager supplies, to make sure we had no illegal transactions before their time. We escaped just as the clock struck 6. I think I heard a war whoop or two as we exited the store.

Shopping the Mall of America is so much easier. Keep that Christmas cheer going! Jingle bells, jingle bells …

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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