One Nation Under Goods: Malls and the Seductions of American Shopping

One Nation Under Goods: Malls and the Seductions of American Shopping

James J. Farrell

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 1588342921

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Loved and hated, visited and avoided, seemingly everywhere yet endlessly the same, malls occupy a special place in American life. What, then, is this invention that evokes such strong and contradictory emotions in Americans? In many ways malls represent the apotheosis of American consumerism, and this synthetic and wide-ranging investigation is an eye-popping tour of American culture's values and beliefs. Like your favorite mall, One Nation under Goods is a browser's paradise, and in order to understand America's culture of consumption you need to make a trip to the mall with Farrell. This lively, fast-paced history of the hidden secrets of the shopping mall explains how retail designers make shopping and goods “irresistible.” Architects, chain stores, and mall owners relax and beguile us into shopping through water fountains, ficus trees, mirrors, and covert security cameras. From food courts and fountains to Santa and security, Farrell explains how malls control their patrons and convince us that shopping is always an enjoyable activity. And most importantly, One Nation Under Goods shows why the mall's ultimate promise of happiness through consumption is largely an illusion. It's all here—for one low price, of course.

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ethics assume a free individual in a free market, and very few communal responsibilities. They assume both moral relativism (I can’t criticize your free choices, to each his own, and so forth) and economic and political libertarianism (it’s OK if it sells). Ethics is a way of telling stories about the goodness of the good life. Shopping centers have always been in this storytelling business. And the products of the mall are amply interwoven with stories, often about the personal benefits of

an electromagnetic field as part of electronic article surveillance (EAS). Part of retail design is making sure that merchandise stays in the store until it’s sold. These design elements are usually invisible to shoppers but visible to professional thieves. A good retail designer influences consumer behavior, but all of the seduction takes place in a context of other considerations as well. The design needs to work on the customer, but it also needs to work for the sales staff. They need to be

“Come see this!” But their brains are only equipped to see the mall one thing at a time. After age seven, they can begin to make sense of the mall, reading it with more sophisticated skills, filtering discrete perceptions and analyzing them in a relatively coherent way. Still, not until the age of eleven or twelve, just when we begin to drop them off at the mall on their own, do they have the cognitive skills to understand the mall as well as an American adult, which is still not saying very

theaters to outparcels on the edge of the parking lot. They discovered, in fact, that such businesses were locating near the mall to profit from its traffic flow. So newer malls are integrating entertainment as an essential part of the program, trying to capture proceeds that had been proceeding elsewhere. Entertainment allows shopping centers to “generate free publicity, distinguish one center from another, boost traffic, extend shopper visits, generate repeat business and compete with

boom-time formula to one suburban location after another. “Malls were a tremendous education in humans,” he says. “So even though it was a repulsive subject, I learned a lot.” Because the cookie-cutter shopping centers of the 1960s and 1970s, including some of his own designs, had been designed as “machines for shopping,” they often “lacked the kind of complex experience found in existing urban conditions.” Consequently, Jerde decided that “shopping centers would be better designed for citizens,

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