The author of the international bestseller Why We Buy—praised by The New York Times as “a book that gives this underrated skill the respect it deserves”—now takes us to the mall, a place every American has experienced and has an opinion about.
Paco Underhill, the Margaret Mead of shopping and author of the huge international bestseller Why We Buy, now takes us to the mall, a place every American has experienced and has an opinion about. The result is a bright, ironic, funny, and shrewd portrait of the mall—America’s gift to personal consumption, its most powerful icon of global commercial muscle, the once new and now aging national town square, the place where we convene in our leisure time.
It’s about the shopping mall as an exemplar of our commercial and social culture, the place where our young people have their first taste of social freedom and where the rest of us compare notes. Call of the Mall examines how we use the mall, what it means, why it works when it does, and why it sometimes doesn’t.
Bestselling "retail anthropologist" Underhill (Why We Buy) talks readers through every aspect of malls, from the first glance at their ugly exteriors along the side of the road to the struggle to remember where the car's parked. Although he offers glimpses of shopping centers around the world, the bulk of this excursion takes place in a mall a few miles outside Manhattan, as Underhill and a rotating cast of companions wander through stores looking for various items, commenting about what does (and doesn't) work about the shopping (and social) experience. The colloquial narration works well, even under potentially strained circumstances ("I need to use the bathroom, and you're coming with me"), although the casual recognition of gender differences in shopping patterns sometimes leads to observations that that readers may find off-putting, like comments on the physical assets of "fat and curvy" women. Underhill clearly revels in mall culture, though he looks upon it with a sharply critical eye; among the biggest complaints: lousy maps and the lack of shopping carts. No detail is too small to escape his attention; if one ever wondered why clothing racks always seem stuffed to capacity, for example, he explains it's because rising real estate prices have largely eliminated storerooms. Some might ask how much detail shoppers really want about how stores entice them to buy, but any nagging doubts will be swept away by the engaging manner in which Underhill passes along the keen insights he's gained through years of retail consulting.