Sometimes even those of us who generally buy things over the 'nets have to shop in person -- in my case this morning, I needed to replace an almost non-functional stereo before tomorrow. Music's an important part of my life, I enjoy listening to it while I'm working, and the previous stereos I've owned have both crapped out in the same way, so it was time for something a little nicer. Not super-fancy, but fancy enough for the store to exist in the Shopping Center to Rival in Extravagance All Merchants, or SCREAM. Which is what I felt like doing after setting foot in the place with the express intention of buying something. Previously, I'd poked my head in, maybe browsed in the bookstore when I'd gotten caught outside in a downpour, but now I was one of the shoppers; I had a purpose that coincided with the purpose of the mall, which was purchasing a luxury good.
None of the other patrons of SCREAM were wearing rain jackets or fringed cotton purses: I saw young and middle-aged hetero tourist couples; and women, many in heels, and well-heeled, meeting each other for lunch or coffee with or without kids. It didn't really matter, though -- whatever my rationale for doing so (I am sensitive! I appreciate music!), I chose to spend my wealth there, and we all had that in common.
It's clear that Internet buying isn't only about convenience (speed, availability); it's about the potential to dissociate yourself from a certain purchasing class. It's about proclaiming your taste to be your own; you're making this decision intimately, in private, without being interpellated as a particular brand of consumer who enjoys shopping in a stone atrium of black, gray, and silver. But our tastes are never our own, and I'm grateful for the reminder. It's been hard for me, this fall -- much harder here than it was when I was living on my own, in a neighborhood less accessible to public transit -- to resist turning shopping into a recreational activity; but thinking about the fact that the money I spend ultimately builds more SCREAMs turns my stomach.