The modern American large mall experience


I do love how you can smell the money burning in a place like this.

Recently, I went to a shopping mall. A nice one, mind you. The type that's in a town that has money and the locals who live around it also have money. As in the kind of locals who live in overpriced McMansions and their kids go to charter or private schools.

Crazy things about malls like this: It has industrial design trying and failing to feel homey and inviting, it's expensive, it's also cheap, it's clean and it's also dirty. And all of this is going on at the same time.

I actually quite enjoy the big shopping mall, said sincerely. It is the old world way of American Big Retail that still somehow survives. I can't help but think of the massive cost just to keep the lights on and the doors open every time I'm in one of these places. What's the electricity bill for a giant place like this? Or the water bill? How much does it cost to heat and cool all this giant open space?

In my time, I've seen some things in Big Retail. Mini malls, freestanding big box stores, "shopping towns", "super" stores, small freestanding dollar stores taking any commercial space they could find (sometimes in the weirdest of places)...

...but none of those compare to the large mall experience just because of the massive cost of everything to do with it.

I'll explain more about what I said above.

Industrial design

You can't get away from the industrial design of a big honkin' shopping mall. Designers try very hard to make a giant interior space feel warm and inviting, but it never quite works, because let's be real here. How in the hell can you make a 50ft ceiling feel "inviting"? You can't. There's just no way.


Luxury goods stores are a staple of big shopping malls. There's nothing in any of them that I actually want.

I've always found it amazing that you hardly ever see any customers shopping in luxury stores, even on busy days. Maybe they see some real traffic during the holiday shopping season, but you know that doesn't cover the cost of running that space for the year. How can they afford to stay in business? I HAVE NO IDEA.


A stone's throw (literally) from the luxury stores are places that sell things cheap. The typical things seen are general items like toiletries and home goods. Think of it as a slightly better dollar store.

These are the only mall stores where I will actually shop. I can actually afford what they sell, and I can find things that are genuinely useful.

Clean, but dirty

You always see mall employees cleaning something just about anywhere you go. This keeps the place looking nice...

...but not really.

When you have a large industrial designed commercial space that sees tons of foot traffic, over time the place just starts wearing out.

There are only so many times a floor can be walked on and cleaned before the tile starts breaking. Or if the area is carpeted, high traffic carpet at some point starts wearing out. The counter top the clerk uses to check out products for customers day after day starts showing its age.

You get the idea. A mall gets used a ton.

Yes, the place is clean, but also dirty. Keep cleaning a well-used thing and it just ends up still looking dirty after being cleaned. There's not much that can be done about that except to replace the floor or carpet or counter top or whatever... and malls typically don't do that all too often.

I am glad the big mall is still here

When you really think about it, the giant commercial space that is the large shopping mall is all sorts of ridiculous.

This ridiculousness is very American and I'm glad it's still around. Seeing absolutely colossal commercial spaces is just a sight to behold and brings a sense of wonderment.

And hey, the parking is free.

Published 2024 Mar 28