Archive for August, 2007

In BeTween Teen Shopping

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

As I blogged about last week, I spent my summer vacation touring the Juniors’ Department of every retail outlet in the Western US.

OK, that’s an exaggeration, it only seems like I’ve been in every store that stocks sizes 1, 3 and 5. If there was even a remote possibility that a store might have an item of clothing or jewelry that Valerie had not come across in a previous foray, we had to “poke our heads in, just for a minute.” Even Tiffany’s got the once over. I think she sleeps better at night knowing there is nothing in the shopping universe that she has overlooked.

Over the course of the summer, she has gotten so good at identifying the merchandise, that we have been able to follow the life cycle of a particular piece of clothing. The other day when we were in Ross, for the allotted “minute,” she spotted a shirt that she had seen some months back at Nordstrom, then seen again at Nordstrom Rack. It was hanging by a thread, crammed on the rack at Ross. I just hope someone buys it and puts it out of its misery.

During these extensive shopping excursions, I entertain myself by following her around and occasionally trying on a jacket or top and then putting it back ““ always with the thought that “this would be really cute on me if I was 30 years younger.” And fortunately for Steve this summer, the “Bourne Ultimatum” was worth multiple viewings, saving him from sitting for hours in a Starbucks while Valerie worked her way through another circular fixture.

However, for Valerie’s little sister Jennifer, who is four years younger, the prospect of waiting while Valerie forages in Forever 21 (again), has become almost too much to bear. On our last shopping trip, Jennifer and I hung around for about two hours, thinking that Valerie must be about ready to leave. When Valerie finally found us she reported, “I’ve looked at all the tops. Now, I’m going to start on the jeans.” We let out a heavy sigh.

For Jennifer, accompanying her sister wouldn’t be so bad if she could be shopping in her department while Valerie is shopping in Juniors’. However, the shopping options for a preteen girl like Jennifer are practically nonexistent.

In a typical mall, it seems like one out of every two stores is targeted to teenagers. Right off the top of my head I can think of half a dozen:  Wet Seal, Rave, Buckle, Pac Sun, Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, Torrid. And in a department store like Macy’s, the Juniors’ Department takes up a football field of square footage.

But there aren’t any stores that cater to 10 to 12 year olds, so Jennifer is relegated to shopping in the small and sparsely stocked Girls’ 7-16 Department. And since she wouldn’t be caught dead in a “High School Musical” t-shirt,  that eliminates about half the merchandise.

Yes, there is the Limited Too store that caters to tweens, but frankly I find it overpriced. And it’s just one option compared to the dozens of choices a girl has once she can wear a size “0” jean.

So, I’m predicting that it won’t be long before retailers wake up and realize that there are a lot of little sisters like Jennifer who wonder why their department is a fraction of the size of their teenage sibling’s. I just hope it happens before next year’s back-to-school shopping.

Summer of Shopping

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

The summer of 2007 will stick in my memory as the summer that Valerie, our 15 year old daughter, discovered shopping.

I can trace her shopping obsession to a Saturday in April. We had set off for a wholesome family outing to the San Francisco Zoo. About midway across the Golden Gate Bridge, it started to rain. We were afraid that all the smart animals would go into hiding in order to stay dry, leaving only us and the hippos staring at each other while we got soaked.

So quickly came up with Plan B: for years I had wanted to check out the San Francisco Centre. Our daughters’ agreed that koalas are cute but there is a lot more entertainment value in the shoe department at Nordstrom. We decided to ditch the Zoo and head to the mall.

When we walked into the San Francisco Centre, Valerie was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy wakes up to find that she isn’t in Kansas anymore and that her world has changed from black and white to color. Steve and I watched her inhaling the sights and perfumed smells of this new retail world: the marble floors, the curving escalators, the literally hundreds of stores waiting to be explored ““ and not a downscale Mervyns’s in sight. This was a mall like no other that she had ever been in. But instead of being greeted by the Lollipop Guild, there was a shirtless and very buff young male model at the entrance to the Abercrombie and Fitch store. We all couldn’t help giggling every time we walked past him.

But there was one big difference between Valerie and Dorothy, Valerie didn’t keep saying, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” After four hours of mall crawling, her chant at the San Francisco Centre was, “Do we have to go home? Do we have to go home?”

Her shopping horizons continued to expand when we happened upon a Nordstrom Rack store when we were attending a gymnastics meet in Southern California. It was amazing she had any energy left to compete the next day after the five hour workout of sorting through racks and racks of juniors’ tops, jeans, and jewelry.

And little did we know when we decided to go to Seattle to visit Grandma that we were heading to an absolute shopping Mecca. A Nordstrom, a Nordstrom Rack, Macy’s, and two malls all within walking distance of the hotel.

But lest I give the wrong impression, we aren’t leaving with truckloads of purchases. Valerie just wants to make sure that she has reviewed every option before deciding what purchase will give her the biggest enjoyment to cost ratio. So that can mean three hours in Sephora in order to choose one $13 eye shadow. My only question is: what do these stores have against chairs for long-suffering parents?

For Valerie, the store that a purchase comes from, makes no difference at all. Although she loves taking in the refined atmosphere at Nordstrom’s, she’s just as happy with a $10 pair of jeans off the clearance rack at Target. It’s all about what she feels will fulfill her sense of style. There’s only one store that she refuses to shop in: Mervyn’s. In her words, “cheap knock-offs and no selection.” Around our house, it has become the “store that must not be named.”

Now that we’re at the end of the summer, it’s apparent that Valerie has developed keen radar for shopping opportunities that I don’t even notice. I had practically forgotten that there was a Ross store in the same shopping center as Trader Joe’s. “Can I just check out the shirts while you’re grocery shopping?” Or “Do you think I could just run into Kohl’s while you’re in the Post Office?”

And yesterday, when we were chatting and enjoying the spectacular scenery during an outing along the San Francisco waterfront, Valerie stops dead in her tracks. “That girl just walked past with a “Forever 21″ bag. There must be store around here!”

Roundtrip from Santa Rosa to Seattle

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Anybody who has been on an airplane in the past five years knows that air travel isn’t enjoyed”¦just endured. I always feel that if I make it onto the plane with my belongings and dignity intact, it’s a major victory.

Until this spring, the most convenient airport for us to fly out of was Oakland. However, getting there means traveling through the aptly named McArthur Maze. Assuming we survived the eight lanes of drivers going 80 miles-an-hour on I-80, we still had to deal with the Oakland Airport and its perpetual renovation. The last couple of times we were there, the drop off area looked like the pictures on the news from Iraq. There were huge holes in the ground, barricades everywhere, and roads that ended in mid-air. Inside it’s no better. In fact, last summer when we arrived at John Wayne Airport, my youngest daughter commented in amazement, “Wow, this airport has a ceiling!”

So last spring, when Horizon Airlines announced that it was going to start offering service out the little (and nearby) Santa Rosa Airport, we jumped at the chance to give it a try. And what luck! One of the two places Horizon flies to is actually someplace we wanted to go. Book four seats to Seattle to visit Grandma!

We didn’t know what to expect on our first time flying out of Santa Rosa, so we planned to arrive at the airport the recommended hour and a half before departure. Now we know we don’t need to allow quite so much time. In fact we were so early that after we checked our luggage, I was considering driving back home and doing a last load of laundry before getting on the plane. However, once I saw that there were only six chairs in the entire airport and that the line behind us was starting to grow, we realized that getting to the airport early had its perks.

Usually when you walk into an airport, the first thing you see is the long line of people snaking their way to the Security checkpoint. But after we checked our luggage, I realized that I still hadn’t seen a single white plastic bin. Where were the shoeless hoards shuffling along? I figured they must be behind the doors marked “Security Area.”

When they announced that Security was now open and we could proceed with screening, we went through the doors into a “portable,” like the kind they set up when they need an extra classroom at a school. The room was completely empty except that along one wall of the room was the usual screening machinery and standing behind it were three smiling TSA agents.

I was so stunned not to find a roomful of disgruntled travelers that the agent had to give me a little jolt to get me moving. “Y’all just come on in, dear, and we’ll get you on your way.”

When was the last time you heard a TSA agent call anybody “dear?” And then she went on to comment on how pretty my daughter’s name is.

I can’t be getting on an airplane; these people are treating me like a person instead of cattle! This seems more like the checkout line at Safeway. Where’s the bald headed TSA agent shouting at us to “form two lines?”

I needn’t have been concerned. He was waiting for us at Sea-Tac for the return trip”¦along with the hundreds of harried travelers inching their way through the zigzag barriers to the conveyor belts. Ah yes, air travel as we know it today.
Sure, the Seattle Airport has a spectacular view, a dozen Starbucks and plenty of interesting shops, whereas and the only things you can buy at the Santa Rosa Airport are Skittles and Cheetos from the vending machine, but I’ll take it over any other airport in any other city. And that’s because when I’m there, it means I’m only 15 miles from being back home.