12 May 2008

Rant Rant Rant

Once upon a time I scribbled out a rant that, as it grew, morphed into an "I Hate Generic" manifesto. Then this blog was born. It was created as a forum for blowing off steam. Over the last (almost) two years, it has become many other things.

But forgive me while I return to my roots.

I've been in a frenzy trying to complete my final projects before graduation, while simultaneously trying to pack up my life (I'm moving out of my place the same day I graduate and also the same day I fly off into the wild blue yonder for two months).

I had a brief window of opportunity this evening to run out and buy a pair of sandals for my summer travels. I did some research online to figure out what I wanted so I wouldn't end up wasting more time and energy than necessary.

What I want (in a nutshell): good quality sandals that will survive ambulating around Mexico City and through Aztec ruins and then all around Manhattan. Not so difficult, right?

I despise the mall with my entire being and in the last three years I have only gone three times (three times too many). I found some shoes online at Nordstrom that looked promising, so despite my mall-phobia, I huffed it to Nordstrom with my very specific mission.

I detest the snobbery of Nordstrom. It's not like it's Neiman Marcus or Saks or Harrod's, but for some reason it has a superiority complex.

I went wearing exactly what I'd been wearing all day: cut-off shorts, my grandfather's old flannel shirt, and a pair of flip flops. I walked straight to the sandals I had seen online. I saw two preening salesmen fops glance at me and curl their lips in disgust. Ignoring them, I picked up the shoe, and to my dismay, it was a flimsy piece of crap. The sole was a piece of stiff plastic and looked like it would snap after two steps. The straps had shoddy stitching that was already sprouting in places.

I walked over to one of the fops and said, "Hi, I'm just wondering if you have a similar sandal in another brand."

"Hmm... uh..." (eyeballing me up and down) "noooooo."

"Okay, do you know if another Nordstrom might? I'm just looking for a better quality shoe," I said.

He smiled condescendingly at me, his nostrils flaring slightly, and said, "Are you looking for a specific designer?"

"No, I just want a shoe that's not unraveling already," I said, involutarily aping his facial contortion.

He stared at me coldly without responding, his arms crossed impudently across his chest. Silence.

"Is that a no?" I asked.

"Mmmhmm," he purred.

Right. Here's the thing. I'm not a cheapskate, but I'm thrifty (I just converted four winter dresses into sundresses so I wouldn't have to buy summer clothes). I like quality, but I'm not a label snob. I'm anti-recreational shopping and firmly believe in only buying items that last, thereby avoiding falling prey to the culture of obsolescence.

But wow. I'm kind of stunned by the whole mall experience. That place is soulless, full of stale air, heavy with migraine-inducing (well, poisonous) fragrances. It was full of chintzy, ludicrously overpriced crap that is designed to only last one season. According to multiple sources who study consumerism, 99% of all purchases in the United States are trashed within six months.

What is wrong with people? I'm really not trying to wax philosophical or get all Don DeLillo White Noise or something, but the whole picture is just dismal. People go and shell out hard earned dollars for trash. Literal trash. And the buying experience is trash too. There's no joy in it and it makes me feel filthy.

Anyway. That's my rant. I still don't have sandals. Can anyone empathize?


Knee Coal said...


highly recommended.

i am studying in london right now, and i am obsessed with markets. the atmosphere is very different, the finds are unique, etc. i won't be able to return to conventional shopping (inside a store! with price tags and canned music! ugh!) when i get back to the states.

ailsa said...

Aw... I miss London. Although, I did have a gross mall experience in the UK, too...

I'll just focus on the positive - shopping in London is amazing. I had a lot of luck in the charity shops around Chelsea.

la femme said...

stellar post.

some pics are finally up...

Connie said...

I had a similar problem when trying to get sandals for travelling through south America last year... I despised those plastic trekking sandals that everyone who has a backpack wears. I wanted practical, comfy, but stylish. After much searching I eventually went with a pair of Birkenstock's...I found a pair with a back strap, which I knew I would need if doing alot of walking.

I'm still wearing them, and am now living in Peru, and they have lasted.. Treks to Angel falls, Machu Picchu and a week in New York. The lovely thing is when the sole eventually wears down you can mail them off to Birkenstock and get the sole replaced.. for a small fee. Practical, environmentally friendly and I think they look good.

ailsa said...

Thanks for the advice!

Anonymous said...

ditto on the birkenstock. i just bought myself a pair of the sparta, and i'm quite pleased. all members of my family have owned multiple pairs of different styles and have loved them and worn them for years and years.

Jamie, Shad and Shiloh said...

wow, 99% trashed in 6 months...makes you think...

Alice said...

i like mephisto, but birkenstocks are similar. i recently re-bought the exact same sandals that previously lasted me 7 years - they're about $150 (cdn) but if you factor in the durability, i think it's a worthwile investment.

ambika said...

This is one of the reasons I'm grateful I've lived in walking distance of downtown for the past 4-5 years. The mall really does suck and I've never understood (even as a teen, when that was supposed to be the place to hang out [I preferred Capitol Hill even then]) how it could be a place people *want* to go.

However, downtown has it's drawbacks--hordes of tourists, 'flagship' stores that have that superiority complex you're referring to and often indifferent or obsequious service -- too rarely anything inbetween.

For sandals, I've been happy with Franco Sarto or Fornarina. I walk a lot & both those brands have stood the test of time for me.

Hammie said...

Have you tried Clarks, Geox or Primagi?
I buy for my two kids with autism, and as they HATE change I found that buying the best brand possible means they will get maximum wear.(and we won't have to go through the change!) Geox and Primagi have kids ranges up to Euro 38 and Geox do grown-ups shoes all the time. Clarks are in all sizes.
I live in Ireland but make regular trips to London for my "mental health" and absolutely adore the Charity shops. Notting Hill Homeless and Trinity Hospice are my favourites across London but the U.K. Cancer research shop on the Kings Road. Armani, Armani, Ah Ah Armani!
Love your blog.

Anonymous said...

I must agree. I am not a huge mall person myself.

Lola said...

oh that sounds horrible! im sorry. maybe its just your nordstrom though. because the one in the mall near where I lived when i lived in america had super nice salespeople that helped you find whatever and gave tips on how to take care of certain types of shoes to make sure they last

ailsa said...

hammie, colorcast, lola: thanks for the tips/comments and thanks for reading!