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Call of the Mall

Call of the Mall

The Geography of Shopping by the Author of Why We Buy

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Paco Underhill, the Margaret Mead of shopping and author of the huge international bestseller Why We Buy, now takes us to the mall, a place every American has experienced and has an opinion about. The result is a bright, ironic, funny, and shrewd portrait of the mall -- America's gift to personal consumption, its most powerful icon of global commercial muscle, the once new and now aging national town square, the place where we convene in our leisure time.
It's about the shopping mall as an exemplar of our commercial and social culture, the place where our young people have their first taste of social freedom and where the rest of us compare notes. Call of the Mall examines how we use the mall, what it means, why it works when it does, and why it sometimes doesn't.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743235921 | 
  • January 2005
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: America Shops

We're driving toward the mall.

I spend a lot of time in malls. Too much, I think. I daydream of life on a ranch out west where I'd go to Wal-Mart every two weeks for groceries, and that would be it for me and shopping.

It will never happen.

You are riding with a tall, bald, stuttering research wonk on the cusp of his fifty-third year. I am called a retail anthropologist, which makes me uncomfortable, especially around my colleagues still in academia who have many more degrees than I do. For whatever combination of reasons, I've spent my adult life studying people shopping. I watch how... see more

Are we really going to spend an entire book inside a mall?

Yes, we are.

It's not as though studying people as they congregate to buy and sell things is a totally frivolous or small-minded endeavor. Consider the history of our species, a fair swath of which has been propelled by merchants or their emissaries traveling to the far reaches of the planet, sometimes at great risk, in order to bring back stuff to peddle to the rest of us. As any schoolchild can testify, the romance of the ancient world teems with spice routes and trade winds and trafficking in silks and precious metals, frankincense and myrrh,... see more

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