So I was at the mall this weekend. I’d been intending to go for days but what with full-time work, the horrors of rush-hour traffic and wanting to be in bed by ten (pathetic I know, but my body isn’t what it used to be), mall crawling took a back seat and was finally set aside for a weekend.
I’m usually very organized and focused when it comes to ‘doing’ a mall: I have a list, I advance in a long circuitous but unidirectional manner (to ensure that I cover every shop but don’t waste time backtracking), and never stop to eat or drink. (Loo breaks alone are allowed.) It sounds torturous but there’s no other way but single-minded objectiveness if you are really serious about getting through that list.
However, this time I broke the cardinal rule of professional shopping: I had no plan. I knew I had “stuff” to buy: vague, fuzzy thoughts of lipstick and clothes rampant in my mind. But I didn’t have a list. And I had only three hours before I had to be back home. I spent exactly half that time having lunch with a friend because I’d skipped breakfast and was famished by the time I arrived. Afterwards, I floated around aimlessly, picking at stuff I wasn’t sure I wanted. This would all have been fine if I’d had no agenda, and I was just out to meet friends, have lunch, do some window shopping, maybe manage a good find at my favourite clothes store, and go back home, blissful in the belief that a good time was had by all. But time is a luxury I can ill afford to while away, especially when it was set aside to achieve something. I returned home feeling dissatisfied and empty, like I hadn’t made anything of my day (superfluous as my ‘anything’ may have been).
Lest this happen to you, and in a bid to remind myself as well, I put down my guidelines for an efficient and pain-free shopping experience:
1. Prepare your list. Unless your aim is solely to meander with a wherever-life-and-my-money-take-me philosophy (which can be good for you from time to time), I suggest using a shopping list to plan your schedule. It will curb impulse buys, remind you of your priorities and help manage time.
2. Never leave home on an empty belly. Having to stop to eat before you’ve even embarked on your quest is asking for failure on a dessert plate. Carry an apple or banana and a bottle of water with you for hunger pangs. You can treat yourself to a nice gluttonous meal after your work is done.
3. Dress simple. As tempted as you may be to dress to the nines, you will live to regret it after a few hours of retail therapy. Your feet will start to kill you very slowly, your dangly accessories will catch in every item of clothing you try on and you will wish you could walk around in your undies, if it meant not having to peel off jeans and leather jacket in every dressing room. Avoid these amateur mistakes by a) wearing a single piece of clothing with no zippers or buttons (such as a tunic or shift dress) b) wearing flat, easy slip-on kind of shoes c) refraining from wearing bracelets and heavy earrings.
4. Avoid carrying any more than you absolutely have to. Handbags have the tendency to gain weight as the day progresses. Consider carrying a satchel slung across your body, so your arms are free to lug around your purchases instead.
5. Set a budget. I feel a deep responsibility toward my readers to say this. If you figure out a way to stick to it, let me know.
6. Pick up every item in every colour and every size you want to try on before you proceed to the fitting rooms. Trust me, you don’t want to have to pull all your clothes back on to go search for the pink turtleneck in a size 12. (Let’s face it: the assistants are never around when you need ‘em.)
7. When in doubt, ask for the item to be kept on hold for you. All the shops do it, and you can come back in a thinner frame of mind to try it on again.
8. However, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t force it. Go with your gut feeling.
9. Every now and then, borne out of pure instinct, you will discover that perfect white top for work or an exquisite pair of shoes that you know is it. Don’t think, just buy. Those are the kind of purchases I never regret because they usually stick with me for years before I throw them away in tatters.
10. And finally, the holy grail of shopping rules: always remember where you parked your car.