I miss browsing in stores. I miss winding through the aisles, mentally chronicling the goods, admiring the aesthetics of the display. Purse displays are particularly elegant. I miss the bright aroma of the freshly-unpacked things (it’s probably formaldehyde) and drifting in my private reverie.

I’m sure that’s the reason I have so many shoes, never worn. They looked so pretty in the store! They look very pretty in my closet too. I visit them sometimes, and rearrange them by color or function. Although, honestly, there’s few opportunities to wear fire engine red open-toe patent leather faux-crocodile stilettos in Alaska.

Just the other day, I stood in front of my heel collection, wondering if there was a police officer with small enough feet who could wear a pair of my shoes in one of those funny charity walks. I’d donate a pair to a good cause. I’m not sure which pair I could part with (perhaps one of the Naughty Monkeys) but I don’t have to decide that right now since I don’t know any cops with my shoe size. And I’m unlikely to meet one. (Shhh! Please don’t tell. It has to be one of those magical moments of synchronicity where a cop mysteriously appears and asks my shoe size or the whole exercise is spoiled.)

Anyway, the days of browsing stores are gone. I can’t walk into any kind of specialty store without some “greeter” tackling me in the first few feet offering to guide me to what I need. If I shake that one loose, another one is five feet away.  It happened again just before the holidays. I went into a sporting goods store for ankle weights. After dodging two greeters, I found a set and then wandered over to the pretty yoga mats. As I was reading the features of the different mats, a particularly sneaky young greeter sidled in beside me and started talking.

“Can I help you find something?” “I’m looking for a yoga mat.” “They’re right here.” He gestures. I know that, you’re interrupting me (I don’t say that). “Is there a particular yoga mat you’re looking for?” “That one.” I grab a box.

I hadn’t decided on it but I can’t talk and shop at the same time and that’s the point. They don’t want to give you a chance to talk yourself out of a purchase. So I come home with a 5 mm thick yoga mat that’s too short. I’m not taking it back. I’ll make do. I’ll just wiggle around during my practice getting my head or feet back on the mat with my equanimity destroyed as I ponder how I was rushed into buying the wrong mat. So there!

Mr. Spock once said, “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but is often true.” – Star Trek, season 2, episode 1 (“Amok Time,” 1968). He was such a wise Vulcan.

And that, girls and boys, is the reason why I now shop on-line in my jammies, a cup of coffee in hand, cruising through 28 or 56 or 108 photos per page. The department store aroma isn’t there and I miss the strolling. But the private reverie is unspoiled. And that is a pleasing thing.



16 thoughts on “Browsing”

  1. Oh yes, so do I. There was something magical about the way everything was set up and displayed. I wonder if it’s still like that in the bigger cities. Christmas was especially wonderful where you selected your ornaments from the display trees. Yummy. Sigh.


  2. Yes, they pounce on you the minute you walk into the store. I understand they have a job to do, but…sigh. Add that to the trend of everybody under the sun wanting to review my “shopping experience” via survey or telephone call, and it’s no wonder I prefer going online.

    Kait, some of the department stores in Pittsburgh still sell ornaments off display trees at Christmas.


  3. I’m a lover of online shopping. I live in a rural area so it’s just easier to have things shipped to me. I do miss browsing bookstores though. I loved that.


  4. I’m a huge fan of online shopping too, Keenan! When I venture out to brick and mortar stores, I make sure to have the reply “just browsing” at the ready for any over-eager sales clerks. Also, I love that Spock quote! So true!


  5. So funny, Keenan. (“one of those magical moments of synchronicity where a cop mysteriously appears and asks my shoe size” = HA!) You’re right. Can’t go two feet without someone appearing…unless, of course, we actually have a question, in which case the floor will appear oddly abandoned.

    I love online shopping. The only drawback is having to lug something to the post office to return it (speaking of shoes, I tried a new online store and bought two pair that were on superduper sale but they didn’t fit, so I had to mail them back, and it was TWENTY bucks for the slowest possible method. Argh.)


  6. I giggled through this whole post, in the best way. It seems I have two experiences: they won’t leave me alone, or I fear I’ve missed the apocalypse because there is NO ONE THERE to help. *sigh* I, too, have gone more online, and I miss the experience of browsing. Thanks, Keenan!


  7. Never in a million years could I buy shoes or clothes online because they’d never fit. (I see stuff on the hanger thinking it will fit and don’t believe it won’t until I’m flailing around in the dressing room, one arm stuck above my head, wondering who will have the misfortune of rescuing me.) When I need something, I love to go to the mall or wherever and hit every store until I find what I need. I’ve never noticed the phenomenon of pesky salesclerks, perhaps because I’ve perfected my Surly Curmudgeon Face. I’m hovering at the edge of cranky all the time anyway, so I definitely would have said, “They’re right here, you’re interrupting me, you dumb—” Well, never mind what I would have said.

    Keenan, next time you want to go shopping, I’ll be your wingman.


  8. I wonder what the trade-off is between clerks intervening in the customer’s self-talk and customers deciding to catalog shop rather than run the gauntlet of insistent helpers?

    I’ve enjoyed catalog shopping since I was a kid, browsing the Miles Kimball catalog and the Sears Wishbook. Decades of military life overseas reinforced the catalog habit, but I do miss the exotic (to me) shopping in foreign languages. Grocery shopping could be especially mysterious.

    “What is a matjesfilet?” (pickled herring in German)

    For the customer, the fun is often in the adventure of the wanting (Spock had it right), while the store’s “fun” is the ka-ching of the cash register.


  9. Thanks for such a fun and delightful post! I’m in Tucson right now visiting my sister, and I read it all out loud to her. A great way for us to begin our day!

    (We used to go through the Montgomery Ward catalogue page by page, each of us selecting an item per page. The training of consumers…)


  10. Always appreciate your random musings….this one was especially fun. Wondering what you’ll tackle next? However, we’re experiencing a different phenomena…often no store personnel other than at the cash registers. Even in Chicago at Macey’s the end of January…somewhat morgue-like. You wonder if there’s a silent fire alarm that recently went off? I shop there during the same week every January for the sales. It’s a browser’s paradise.


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