By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
At 5:00 p.m., I shambled up to the food court for supper. Every clerk had been exceedingly helpful and candid. One, an affable kiosk worker from Ethiopia, told me that the Mall of America is home to a gaggle of pteranodons. (I should note that she had a thick accent and there's a chance I misunderstood her.)
By 8:30, I was still going strong. My feet hurt a bit (I had probably walked three or so miles), but I had met some great people and figured that, if anything, the week would fly by too fast. When closing time arrived at 9:30 p.m., I was almost sorry to leave.
The morning started with a trip to Bebe's Sport, a store specializing in high-end fitness clothes for women. The store's manager introduced me to Ashley, the Mall of America's most notorious shopaholic.
"You're not going to believe how much this woman shops," the manager told me. "All the clerks in a lot of stores know her. You should follow her around and watch her shop."
With big, frosted hair framing a heavily made-up and fake-baked face, Ashley resembled a slender, über-hip Stepford wife. And while she was unwilling to disclose her age, I had it pinned at 41, give or take three years.
She agreed to let me tag along with her and her 13-year-old daughter-slash-shopping protégé, Julia, on the condition that I 1) not use their real names, 2) not divulge what her boyfriend does for a living (suffice it to say he's a "very successful businessman"), and 3) stay on the lookout for "any big sales."
"Okay," I said as the elevator whisked the three of us to the third floor. "Deal. If you don't mind me asking, though, what do you do for a living?"
"I'm a stay-at-home mom," she said. "But I'm not home often. I'd say I come here about six days a week—hey, let's go to Nordstrom Rack!"
For those not in the know, Nordstrom Rack is the clearance offshoot of Nordstrom, arguably the MoA's highest-end retailer. In essence, it's the dilapidated crack house to Nordstrom's posh coke pad. And Ashley was itchin' for a fix.
"So how much would you say you spend a week shopping?" I asked as she sifted ferociously through a clearance rack of children's clothes.
"Huh?" she asked distractedly. "Oh God, I suppose three grand. No! More like two. Hey! What do you think of this shirt, Julia? Isn't it cute?!" Ashley whirled around and showed me a blue-pinstriped shirt. "This was regularly $24.50, but it's on sale for $12.90! Isn't that amazing?"
"Sure," I said. "But what's even more amazing is that you spend $104,000 a year shopping!"
She stopped abruptly and glared at me. "You shouldn't have told me that," she said. "That makes it sound soooo much worse! $104,000! God, my boyfriend would have a heart attack if he knew I spent that much!"
Well, I thought, she's obviously exaggerating her spending habits to make an impression. No one could spend that much a year. I threw out a test question: "How many pairs of shoes do you own?"
"Ha! A few hundred, at least. Which is insane because I have pairs I haven't even worn. Some are still in the box!"
"Is all of this..." I paused and searched for a delicate way of putting it. "Do you find all this satisfying?"
"To be honest," she said matter-of-factly, "no." She turned thoughtful. "It's kind of like an addiction. It really is! Sure, it satisfies, but only for a little while, so then I go shopping again. It keeps going and going. And I have the worst buyer's remorse. Look at these!" She held up a pair of glitter-sprinkled Pumas she had picked out for Julia. "Aren't they cute?"
I've never had a manicure or pedicure before, nor do I plan on having either one again. But this assignment obligated me to partake in as many mall services as physically and financially possible, and I'd just as soon get the more embarrassing ones out of the way pronto.
Gentlemen, let me tell you something about manicures and pedicures you might not know: They're awesome. Hear me out. Disregarding the mangled cuticles, the irritatingly weird sensation of having your toenails filed, and the embarrassment of being mocked by a trio of Goth kids through the store window, it's really not that bad. For $50, you sit in black pleather chair with your feet in a tub of warm water. Two Vietnamese women proceed to simultaneously clip your fingernails and wash your rotting feet. As they do this, they chatter in Vietnamese, stopping occasionally to giggle. That is because they are making fun of you. They will then file down and polish your nails with the kind of strange drills and equipment rarely seen outside a dentist's office. While they do this, they will continue to make fun of you. But not to worry: At the end of the experience, they put lotion on your feet, hands, and arms and massage it in, leaving you feeling refreshed. Emasculated and humiliated, but refreshed.