Monday, May 25, 2009

American Outlet Malls

American Outlet Malls – what can be said about them? That they’re fantastic – that they’re depressing – that they seem to wrap up the best and worst parts of a country all at once?

They’re clearly a metaphor for a culture – it’s no wonder that shopping malls were chosen by George Romero as a place that even the living dead would flock to. There’s something about consumerism and fulling our capitalistic needs that draws us all forward. Sure we like to own things, and we like to buy things… but when you can do that for even less than the people around you, it’s just fantastic!

I have a hard time paying retail now. For anything. It actually upsets me, and gives me a vague sense of buyers remorse. To be honest with you, I can’t think of the last time that I paid full price for a book. and have become good friends of mine. Almost all hard covers are a cool 30% off. And for those pesky paperbacks? Well I used to know people who worked there and could be me 30% off that way. As soon as those days ended, due to a changing of part time job statue for full time student, I discovered the store BMV in Toronto which offers most books anyone would want for 50%+ off. This is not a used book store – oh no. It’s all new stuff for cheap. I believe they sell off warehouse overstock (though this confuses me – without getting into how stores like Chapters operate, there should be no overstock.)

And flight tickets – I’m sure you’ve all had that feeling of dread, if you ever dare to ask other people how much they paid for the same flight you’re on.

But back to the strip malls. Once more – we have our favourite Americans walking around in their track pants ensemble. Something about these discount malls really pulls this side of people out. Comfort is king here, and that’s part of what I love. No one is trying to impress anyone else. When you fight over the last pair of Nike shoes 100 dollars off, there’s no time to wear fancy clothes. We all knew why we were there.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to find clothes, shoes, techie gear, camping supplies, video games, or books – these malls have them all. And I was enjoyed the experience of people at their best, just attempting to find deals. The sociological value alone was enough for me – but then… then I found a book store.

And what did they have here? Comics. I love comics. I do – I can’t help it. And what sign did I see over the racks of comics (we’re talking 200+ page trade paperbacks, not 24 page singles.) A sign that read: All comics $1.00. Surely this must be a joke! It was not. Like a pack of locusts I descended (yes, I like an entire pack) on this pile and started sifting through them. Tragically I owned so many, spending hundreds on what would amount to about twenty bucks here. Each trade, one dollar here, costs about twenty bucks, after my thirty percent off finagling. This was my personal mecca. In fact, my dreams have been pushing me to return there some day soon.

There was only one draw back: I was in America. I could only take fifty dollars across the boarded. I had fifty five dollars worth of comics, and that extra five dollars amounted to a hundred in the real world. I was not prepared to sacrifice any.

As I contemplated taping some to my body as I returned to Canada, my plight was overheard by the manager. Don’t worry he said (I worried. I could let none go! Not here, not now!) As he took the stack from me, he said “We’ll just give you 5% off the whole lot, and that will put you under fifty.”) Wait, what? A discount on a discount? My god America – I love you, I love your people, and I love your malls: Retail… a price for suckers? Oh how I miss that mall.


Now, more about discounted comics - my next post will be about the North American Anime Convention: Anime North. And oh, the doozy that post will be. Stay tuned.

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