Shopping – A Lost Art

Do you remember the thrill of wandering the aisles and displays in department stores?  Even if you couldn’t afford it, it was exciting and fun to touch it and dream.  One of my most favorite places in the world as a kid was SEARS. 

You name it, SEARS had it.    

Of course, there was the classic SEARS Christmas Wish Book, which accounted for huge sales numbers come the holidays.  We’d explore the Wish Book hot off the press, smell the sweet aroma of fresh ink, then, take our imaginations to SEARS for a closer look at the real thing.  What a rush it was to touch something you saw in the catalog on display for the touching. 

Sometimes, the real thing was disappointing. 

Then, there were always moments when we were distracted by our parents who wanted us to try on shoes.  The darned things were always too tight.  The same could be said for clothing that was either too loose or too tight followed by, “Awe Honey, you will grow into them…” or “I think you will like this…” when you hated it with a passion.  No kid wants to try on clothes.

I believe I was an old soul trapped in a kid’s body.  Most kids looked at toys.  Me—I was always in the home improvement department looking at plumbing fixtures and kitchen cabinets—dreaming of home ownership as a grown up.  I loved anything to do with home improvement.  I got high off the smell of fresh cut lumber.  I also had a thing for lighting, electrical hardware, and Christmas lights.  The colors and types of bulbs were enchanting to me.  In those days, there were so many types.

Young people these days want to know how we even survived without video games and electronic media.  I’ve carefully explained to my teenage son in those days we had our imaginations.  We had no idea what a video game was because they didn’t exist.  I did enjoy electric toys.  You flipped a switch and they sprung to action with motion and flashing lights.  I loved those tin battery-operated airliners with lighted cockpits and navigation lights.  There were plastic propellers that whirled around.  They roared around the floor, stopped, loaded and unloaded, and went on their way. 

If you had a dog, motorized toys drove them crazy.

I’d walk into SEARS and head for the bicycles.  I was nine and I wanted one badly.  Christmas Morning 1965, there it was in gleaning red and chrome, leaning on a kickstand amid our living room.  I couldn’t wait to attach it to my backside for a spin around the block.  It had working lights and baskets.  I later added a generator lighting set with a headlight and red taillight for battery-free performance.

Online shopping is certainly convenient as witness the success of Amazon and other online retailers.  SEARS could have been Amazon given vision and the application of technology.  CEO Eddie Lampert didn’t see the point.  SEARS is all but dead.

However – the memories are not.

There’s no substitute for the touch and feel experience of brick-and-mortar shopping.  How many bad online purchases have you experienced because you couldn’t touch and shake it?  The shipping is too expensive to send it back, which leaves you stuck with it.  I say let’s get back to brick and mortar shopping when the stores are quiet and you can see and touch what you’re buying.

If you’re retired, avoid the crowds—take a weekday morning and go browse the stores just for the entertainment value and dream factor.  Chances are good you will find what you’re looking for and experience the thrill of touch—and spending.   

5 thoughts on “Shopping – A Lost Art”

  1. So much I miss of the past. Make no mistake, I’m not ready to go back to days when a sore throat was debilitating, when my favorite television show came on just once a week. Simpler? Yes. At times difficult? yes. I think the overriding feature was that it was much more difficult for Sears, Monkey Wards, J C Penney, SS Kresge to pull the wool over our eyes. A swell read this morning, especially in this season. Makes me consider a bit of eggnog this evening, some sugar cookies, maybe even the oft-maligned fruitcake – a personal favorite of mine. Settle back to watch an air-broadcast television show, commercials and all. Thanks for jostling the memories.

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    1. Indeed Sir…. We fondly remember a different time – but we didn’t have ATMs, had to go to the bank. We didn’t have the convenience of Amazon. We didn’t have the technology we have now. My pleasure….I enjoy reflecting.

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  2. Sears was Amazon for nearly a hundred years. As was Penny’s and Spiegel. But Sears was the one with vacuum cleaners blowing the beach ball upward, a candy counter, pool tables, rifles, cowboy boots and toys galore. Plus all the boring stuff like clothes and furniture and appliances. It was always a treat to go to Sears, even in the middle of the week with mom for an ironing board cover.

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  3. In the 1950s when I was a child, Fort Worth had a Monkey Wards and a Sears, but my family’s go-to store was Leonard Brothers in downtown FW. I miss shopping in an actual store; Target and Walmart don’t qualify. My wife and I shopped Macy’s a few weeks ago and found a shortage of many items due to the supply chain fiasco. I try not to use Amazon if possible. My first bike, from Western Auto, had balloon tires and weighed 50 pounds, almost as much as me.

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    1. Monkey Ward always cracks me up. A buddy of mine long ago called Montgomery Ward and when the woman answered the phone, she answered with “Hello…” He asked if he’d reached Monkey Ward without thinking… She said, “Yes….this is MONTGOMERY WARD…”

      LOL!!!

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