Holiday Store Social

Written by Jeanne Martinet on . Posted in Uncategorized.


Rediscovering the benefits of shopping solo

By Jeanne Martinet

At first, I was shaking in my boots. I had been about to plunge into my usual last-minute holiday shopping when the friend I was going with bailed on me. Who wants to negotiate the teeming hordes alone or try to make quick decisions on items without another eye to help? It’s like running a marathon all by yourself. But then I reminded myself that solo shopping can also be the best shopping.

It was when I was shopping for bathing suits last summer that I had my shopping epiphany (if one can have an epiphany about shopping): There is really no such thing as shopping alone if you are willing to open up to strangers.

Shopping for bathing suits, if you are a woman, is like being held hostage in a tiny, airless room with harsh lighting and being forced to confront all your deepest, darkest, ugliest secrets. The small room is the store dressing room and the secrets are what has happened to your body over the past year.

I was out of town, shopping by myself and feeling unhappy about not having anyone to help me in my pursuit of the perfect suit. I was even more unhappy that the only good mirror was outside the dressing room, forcing me to display myself to other shoppers. But soon I began to notice another woman coming in and out of her own dressing room, also trying on suits. I could tell she was in the same state of mind as me. “How do you think this looks? I ventured to ask her.

“I liked you in the other one better, the blue one, she said. “That one really looked terrific on you.

She was polite, the way a stranger would be. But hers was also an entirely objective opinion, maybe even more than a friend”s would have been. A friend might have taken into account my particular insecurities and usual clothing preferences. She might have even rushed me so we could get to lunch. And while talking to salespeople can be enjoyable, the honesty of store employees can never be entirely trusted. I gave this fellow bathing suit shopper my opinion on her selections, she on mine, and we were both successful and happy. I left with two great suits.

Not only can solo shopping be more efficient’s you can focus on your own purchases’s but it is also rewarding the same way traveling alone can be. When you travel alone, you are forced to engage with people you don”t know. It”s good to think of the other shoppers in the store as fellow travelers. I know it”s my mantra, but interacting with strangers is broadening to the mind and beneficial to the spirit.

OK, so shopping the week before Christmas may not be exactly “broadening, what with all of the jostling and standing in line and having to witness the occasional shopper”s meltdown (“I came all the way down here and you”re out of f***ing stock?! ) And there is no great joy in being stuck in crowds. But you know, some fun parties are like that too, right? And aren”t they worth it in the end?

Of course, holiday shopping “mingling can be difficult because people are tired, frustrated and stressed. But if you can avoid the occasional raging shopper, the rest of the world can be your shopping comrades-in-arms. “Do you think an 8-year-old would like this cobra piggy bank? you might ask someone. Or “Do you think my mother would like this apron with ‘Your opinion is not in the recipe” on it? When you find someone in a store with whom to compare gift choices and ideas’s let”s face it, you are not going to be able to find a salesperson anyway’s it can be really fun.

Mostly, it is satisfying to talk with other people because it makes you realize you are not alone. You are not the only person who has to buy presents for 15 people in three days or has a crazy aunt for whom it”s impossible to shop. You are not the only person who is worried about the money she is spending. You are not the only person who hates the days leading up to Christmas.

And you are not the only person who doesn”t get everything done. If you didn”t find that special clipboard with the LED light on it for your father, don”t fret. Just put it on the list for next year. It”s much more important that you stopped to chat with some of your fellow overconsumers along your merry way.

Jeanne Martinet, aka Miss Mingle, is the author of seven books on social interaction. Her latest book is a novel, Etiquette for the End of the World. You can c0ntact her at JeanneMartinet.com.

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