In the Spring of 2006, Rosemary had the brilliant idea of creating a giant sculpture made out of shopping bags from the Mall of America. Congratulating herself on her genius, she went to the Mall and started asking stores for bags, but they wouldn’t give them to her without buying something. Thus began one of the most misguided adventures of her young life, as she slowly worked her way around the Mall, making purchases at every retail store but two (she lied to get the Eddie Bauer bag, and got weirded out at Daniel’s Leather). In the end, she made purchases at over 300 stores, returning (most of) those purchases bag-less on the following visit.
Among her favorite items were the $100 Stella McCartney yoga mat, the gold lamé Puma gym bag, a super cute pair of Mia sandals from Macy’s, and a $300 pair of Prada sunglasses – inspiring her alter ego, “the lady with the Prada sunglasses” to take over for a couple subsequent shopping trips. Other adventures included getting high at the oxygen bar and buying a $500 GPS system for her car at Radio Shack. She kept only the things she really needed, or were too cute to pass up, and she got stuck with a lot of dumb stuff from stores that didn’t accept returns.
In all, Rosemary spent $15,339.46 at the Mall, and she can’t quite bring herself to publicly state the dollar amount of the purchases she kept. Her husband stopped looking at the credit card bill about 5 shopping trips in, citing “increased anxiety and a tightness in his chest.” Rosemary, having grappled with the shopping-related demons of boredom, guilt, anger, and exhilaration, is just really glad it’s over.
Rosemary attempts to make meaning out of her whole adventure, with little success. She returns to the Mall of America to meditate on the problem, and hits sales at H&M, Nordstrom Rack and Banana Republic. She comes to the conclusion that the societal ramifications of shopping are complicated.
Rosemary starts her last day of shopping at the Mall by picking up her new glasses at Pearle Vision. Armed with her new fabulous look, she takes on a whole string of fancy stores. A gold lamé Puma gym bag and an embroidered brown velour track suit bring her shopping adventures at the Mall of America to a close. As she arrives back at her starting point in front of Nordstrom, Keith arrives to help celebrate. At California Café, overlooking the roller coasters of the amusement park, Rosemary and Keith toast to the end of her epic journey. Total spent: $1317.04. Total returned: $997.50.
On her second to last shopping trip at the Mall, Rosemary feels a strange mix of excitement to be done, and reluctance to finish, as she’s not sure what she’ll do with herself once this is over. After a fascinating discussion at Mobile Solutions as to their sales techniques, buying a bomber jacket at Abercrombie & Fitch meant for a teenager, and being sold expensive and inappropriate skin care products at Bare Escentuals, Rosemary ends the day with the realization that she has stolen two pens over the course of her shopping trip. Total spent: $609.56. Total returned: $586.14.
Rosemary hits the homestretch, with her last visit to the 3rd floor. Maneuvering through hipster kids’ shoes, another oasis of Moose-related paraphernalia, a flag store, and a Western shop, Rosemary demonstrates her well-earned shopping finesse. After the momentous occasion of completing the 3rd floor stores, she treats herself to new glasses at Pearle Vision one floor down. Total spent: $682.10. Total returned: $236.36.
Rosemary takes a trip to her pre-adolescent past in Spencer Gifts, but finds it filled with Miller High Life paraphernalia. Gingko Biloba at GNC, knockout brown satin pumps at Steve Madden, and Hummer brand cologne top the list for the day. Total spent: $259.46. Total returned: $155.24.
As Rosemary makes progress towards the end of her long journey, today’s visit to the Mall is a blur of pre-teen and teen girl crap. After discerning that Hollister is a clothing store and not a night club, and daydreaming about having a little girl at Claire’s Club, she ends her day at Club Libby Lu, where she witnesses the horror of little girls in lipstick and diamond tiaras. Total spent: $330.64. Total returned: $290.44.
Rosemary’s shopping trip starts out on a sour note when the fortune teller machine gives her a repeat fortune. She vows to stop visiting it, and she also vows to stop buying things for herself, and for her kids, who are getting ridiculously spoiled. Her resolve ends up in the toilet almost immediately, as she finds the pair of green Gravis sneakers at Journeys that she’d drooled over at Shi a few trips previous. Total spent: $363.65. Total returned: $276.68.
Rosemary’s friend Clea comes to the Mall with her, with cash in her pocket, ready to buy. She wants to go to stores Rosemary’s already shopped at, so Rosemary gives in and puts aside her “real” work for the day. Swept up in the joys of female bonding over shopping for perhaps the first time in her life, Rosemary scours H&M, DSW Shoes and Nordstrom Rack in search of bargains, flip flops, and that wonderful something that will change her whole world. Total spent: $77.81. Total returned: $29.87
Infuriated by a driver who cuts her off on her way into the mall, Rosemary is unable to shake off her fury. After eye-opening trips to QVC At The Mall and Build-A-Bear Workshop, she works her way through a fairly mundane bunch of stores. She faces down Sears and buys some camping gear, and finally relaxes over a sushi splurge at the end of the day. Her vibe is ruined again by a speeding ticket on the way home. Total spent: $235.26. Total returned: $149.67.
Rosemary starts to have a little bit of fun today, for a change. She flirts with the idea of buying a $100 down pillow at Select Comfort, but settles for a $15 pillow cover instead; purchases a video surveillance system at Ritz Camera; and a pilates thingy to tighten up her abs at Champs. The only downer is Daniel’s Leather, where she gets locked into a depressing hard sell, and narrowly escapes – but without making a purchase or obtaining a bag. Total spent: $359.26. Total returned: $330.33.
Each podcast is an audio journal of the events of one shopping trip. A new episode is available every two weeks. Rosemary's sculpture, "The Wall of Mall," can be viewed here.