07.05.23 Header of the Day: Worse than WiFi-less

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 05/24/2007 - 00:23.

I had the annoyance of going to Beechwod Place Mall today for a meeting. What an astounding celebration of sweatshop labor and wasted resources. This pan is the first floor corner by some silly place called Nordstom, where not only does the coffee shop not provide wifi but the barista doesn't know what wifi means.

BeachwoodPlacePan.jpg216.78 KB

cathedral of consumerism

Are you really surprised? Summit Mall and Chapel Hill, the two primary malls
around here, lack Wi-Fi. Malls are built to cater to consumers, not the astute
customer that may want to comparison shop. They want people to:
  1. arrive
  2. consume
  3. leave
It's another sign that it's time for a change in how people convene...

I hadn't thought of the reasons why

Interesting realization, Derek. I think of malls as community places, so it seems wifi is a natural attraction and amenity that owners would rush to provide - making the mall sticky to keep consumers there as long and often as possible. I hadn't thought of the idea people may comparison shop and that may be a concern of the mall and vendors. I did find a dozen wifi hotspots in the Beechwood Place mall area I tested, but none were open, as far as I could tell (I didn't have time to really explore all of them). One thing I observed was that the names plastered all over the storefronts here are pretty much all international mailorder houses and chains and even manufacturers (like Pottery Barn, Bose, Gap, Sony, Victoria's Secret, etc.) selling things you can buy online and by catalog, so there is no reason to go to the mall. But, as a member of the modern age, I have reasons to go places that serve my other interests, like meeting people from around the region... but, I do not plan to meet anyone anywhere that doesn't have wifi. While I was stuck at Beachwwod Place, without wifi, I still bought a coffee, pumping $2 into the economy here. I would have been happy to stay and perhaps spend more if the place were functional in the new economy.

Disrupt IT

compare and contrast

Comparison and contrast are things that customers do.  Stores do not want customers.  They tolerate customers.  They want consumers.

Well, let me play devil's advocate

Norm for sure you remember the Rouse Company and the Baltimore Inner Harbor project, not to mention the renovation of Fanueil Hall in Boston.  That same Rouse is responsible for Beachwood Place.

I'm not defending it, per se.  I agree with and can understand every single one of your observations.  However, I would think that those observations would be even more instructive if couched in the context of how that space became what it is, originally, and, perhaps, a little perspective on the demographics as to why it is what it is, and what it's not, right now.

I'd agree that there are certain amenities with which no space like that should be without in this day and age and wifi is one of them.  No argument at all. 

But, although I only had to frequent the mall regularly over the last month as I prepared for my son's bar mitzvah (therefore needing to acquire clothing for all my kids, myself and other items which, believe it or not, I couldn't get elsewhere - without being crude, undergarments for myself, no longer available at the neighborhood corset shop, family owned for like 75 years or something, Solomon's, because it had gone out of business under pressure from the likes of Victoria Secrets and others.  Likewise, those items are not exactly something a woman necessarily wants to take the time and money to order online.  But I won't go into why it's not always practical to buy online here.

So - for example - Beachwood Place - what is it good for?  All the seniors that live in that area, and Norm, that's a statistically significant population there.  What do they want with a place like that?  A secure and temperature controlled environment to get exercise and meet and talk to friends.  Do they care about wifi?  Maybe maybe not, but certainly not to the extent, in general, that we care or younger folks care.

Who else likes that place?  People looking to find everything at once.

Who else? Interestingly, teens - for the same reasons as the seniors AND because the teens parents too: see it as a secure place where the kids can go without the adults.

Parochial? out of touch? maybe.  But also very typical of this area of the country that has winter for so many weeks of the year and rain during other portions.

Anyway - I thought you were being rather rough on poor Rouse's creation and, since, sadly, I've had to spend more time in there than I care to admit in order to perfect the bar mitzvah attire of my family, I figured I'd give a little perspective.

yes, consumers in a frenzy

Yes, Derek, consumers in a hurry and in a buying frenzy are best for some venues. The large department stores exist because they have pre-shopped the merchandise for you, and by going to a department store of a certain "class," you can be assured of a certain look, philosophy, and level of quality. It's a class structure thing and has little to do with comparison shopping. People going to Nordstrom's, Saks', or Dillard's are going there for a certain "cachet" or a label. Also, at the big stores, they stand behind their products, and the customer is always right.

You'd think they'd have wi-fi by now, though. It should be part of the overall shopping experience that makes you feel as though you've been to some place special. They should want you hanging out in a leisurely way, I'd think. They also have to realize that a lot of us shop selectively and know the market inside and out before we buy, and that requires browsing at length before buying. Once you've satisfied basic needs, your purchases come few and far between, unless you're trying to fill some basic emotional vacuum with promiscuous consumerism.

Nordstrom's especially has made shopping easy for us in the past--when somebody visits and they need good clothes quick with alterations done the next day, or the most special prom dress, or the perfect pair of shoes.

Anyway, consumers in a frenzy are one thing, customers or buyers-at-leisure are another thing, and buyers who know what they want and where to get it are a third thing, the thing that the department stores exist to serve.