A current radio ad begins with a joke along the lines of “The internet went down for 30 minutes the other night, and I had to talk with my family. They seem like really nice people!”
I thought of this a couple of weeks ago, when I found myself in Prince George with a half-hour to spare (as one does), and decided to drop by Pine Centre Mall and pay a visit to the Body Shop outlet there. For the last 18 months or so I’ve been relying on online ordering when I need something from that vendor, and I suddenly fancied a visit to an actual store (why I never seem to think to do this at Aberdeen Mall when I’m in Kamloops is a puzzle for wiser minds than mine).
Before I got to the Body Shop, however, I had to get to Pine Centre Mall, which is far easier said than done if you aren’t overly familiar with Prince George. It’s not hard to spot from Highway 97 — it’s a honking great shopping mall, after all, and therefore not a subtle, easy-to-miss feature of the landscape — but getting to it is another matter. I’m sure many a driver has watched it hove into sight and then disappear in the rear-view mirror as they try in vain to find a way to actually get to it.
I managed to remember the correct exit off the highway, and get to the mall without a) having to cut across two lanes of traffic or b) causing someone to rear-end me. Success! However, I then had to navigate my way around the parking lot, which was easier said than done.
Why is it that so many parking lots are full of lanes at strange angles and stop signs at the most unexpected places (or, conversely, no stop signs where there should be some?). It’s as if they were designed by people who have never driven a car, have no expertise in traffic patterns or flow, planning, or layout, and seem to be lacking even the most basic sense of direction. One of life’s great mysteries.
Once inside the mall I orientated myself and headed toward the Body Shop, only to realize that the floor at Pine Centre Mall is about the slipperiest surface I have ever had occasion to walk on. How slippery was it? I had to go out on the ice at Drylands Arena to take pictures during the recent First Responders hockey match, and I felt safer walking on an ice rink than I did at the mall.
I managed to make my way to the shop without incident, by picking my way very carefully; an onlooker might have thought I was making my way through a minefield. Once at the shop, however, all that was forgotten, as I quickly reacquainted myself with what it was like to be inside an actual store, rather than scrolling through a list of products on a website.
It was fun! It was interactive! I could pick up products, use the testers to sample scents and textures, see complete ranges all at once rather than one picture at a time! Best of all, there was an actual person there to talk to, ask questions of, compare notes with. I didn’t get the clerk’s name, but she was absolutely delightful, and as I was the only customer in the shop we were able to have a very pleasant natter while I looked around.
She didn’t try to “upsell” me into purchasing anything I didn’t want; indeed, when I went to pay she told me that one of the products was part of a “buy one, get one free” promotion of which I was unaware, and then went into the back and brought out a number of free samples and put them in my bag (bonus!).
It was all far more enjoyable a process than I had expected, and a useful reminder that while online shopping is undoubtedly convenient, there’s nothing quite like the personal touch. As things start to open up more, I hope people remember this, and do more of their shopping in person. Businesses — especially small local ones — will thank you.