Culture Shock: Mall Edition


Do guards still check your bag with a stick before they let you in the building?

The first time I went shopping  in Toronto was an eye-opener. I’d gone in all ready to let a stranger have a peek at my personal effects when I realized there were no human security guards at the entrance, just a pair of sensors. No muss, no fuss, no line-up of people aching to escape the heat and bask in the simple joy of free air-conditioning. Sweet first world democracy, renew thy force!

While freeing and definitely less of an annoyance, I started missing the kitsch after a bit. It does seem lacking in personality. What, no apathetic, disaffected greeting from someone paid to ensure I wasn’t bringing in weapons of mass destruction? Boring.

I doubt mall security is trained to handle what really happens if the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan. If there really was a bomb in a handbag, and it got poked the wrong way, you know Manong Security Guard would be resting in pieces along with the rest of us. It’s a pointless exercise in security. On the plus side, it’s honest employment, a check is a check and it’s a wholly unique experience.

Speaking of honest employment, we also tend to have salesgirls everywhere. There’s always someone waiting to assist you. On the one hand, it can make the shopping experience a bit too intrusive; on the other, there is no denying how helpful it can be. Over here, it is quite possible to scour 14 aisles in a Walmart and never find an attendant. I suppose it encourages being self-sufficient, but sometimes I just want to know how much this gift wrap costs and there’s no price tag and there’s no salesperson in sight and I can’t find a barcode scanner to save my life and for the love of God, why is this happening?

We Filos do malls differently. I had to get used to the idea of malls as almost exclusively geared for retail, as opposed to the Filipino idea of malling, which is to get away from the heat and enjoy things to do all in one place. Here, if you want to go ice skating, go to an outdoor rink (always free in winter, quelle surprise). Bowling? Go to the bowling alley. Movies? That’s what theatres are for. It’s all very specific, unlike Philippine malls, where a lot can be found under one roof.

One of the things I miss the most are courtesy booths. There’s always a place to leave your bags and shop unencumbered. I have long thought the real reason behind this is to discourage light-fingered kleptomaniacs from stashing ill-gotten gains, but let’s pretend this is for our benefit. Hey, I’m not complaining. I took this stuff for granted, and started missing it when I moved. Say what you want about the benefits of Canada (and there are many), but courtesy booths in stores are almost non-existent.

This sucks because over here, they’re serious about having sales. Prices get slashed so much, they’re practically giving away the goods and without any courtesy booths in sight, taking advantage of something like Boxing Day turns into a bit of a chore.

If I had a dollar for every time I wished there was a National Bookstore somewhere on the premises so I could leave my stuff at the courtesy booth, pretend to shop around and then slip out clandestinely and meander about the mall without feeling like an overloaded beast of burden, I’d be rich.


Via Dumaguete MetroPost

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