At dusk on Saturday evening while I was in San Diego, I drove to a shopping area in Chula Vista and went into a discount department store. I will not name the store, but Wikipedia names it a Fortune 1000 company, and you are likely familiar with it. There are 714 of these stores, located in 26 states and in Guam. The third largest off-price retailer in the US, they carry clothing, footwear, bedding, housewares, jewelry, beauty products and various other items.
I travel a fair amount throughout the United States, and for many years now, have shopped in these stores and others like them. The discounts are large on the moderate to high-end products they stock and the stores are easily accessible and well-lighted. Over the years, my credit cards have racked up thousands of dollars in off-price retail stores.
In recent months–probably over a period of a couple of years–I have noticed a sharp deterioration in the appearance of certain of these stores. A few months ago, in the Bay area of northern California, I was aghast when I walked to the shoe area and saw scores of shoes strewn on the floor, mixed with clothing, toys, books and who knows what else. It was almost unbelievable, and I called Jerry over to look at the wreckage. That store sets in an area of the country that has one of the highest standards of living anywhere. A very modest house costs five to six hundred thousand dollars. We are not talking slums or ghetto here; this is upper middle-class America.
I entered the Chula Vista store on Saturday, took one of the small wheeled carts and began my shopping spree. The entry of the store nicely spotlighted a Mother's Day gift display, and I browsed there a few minutes before pressing to the interior of the store. By the time I arrived at the rear portion of the store, I had selected a couple of items and placed them in my cart. The store was fairly busy, but not overwhelmingly so.
The lingerie section flagged me. The floor beneath these racks that held women's personal items was covered–I say covered–with fallen garments, to the degree that there were layers of clothing, mounds of them on the floor where the women shopped. I watched the shoppers' feet push aside the garments, and occasionally someone would bend down and select an item from the floor.
But it was in the housewares section that I observed such chaos and disarray that it flat stopped me in my tracks. One aisle was utterly filled with lampshades, window blinds and other large items. No one seemed concerned, neither clerks, management, or customers, for that matter. I turned left and saw a deserted shopping aisle–deserted because it was stacked several feet high with pillows, bedspreads and rugs–right down the middle of the aisle. It was impossible to walk there.
It was surreal, especially because no one appeared to think it out of the ordinary. It was as if a bomb had exploded and the shoppers merely continued their shopping, giving no evidence that they observed any disruption, nor heard the explosion, or smelled smoke. I saw no signs of management scurrying to clean up these messes, but saw additional stocking of merchandise, and employees who appeared at ease and who were routinely going about their business. I watched a young man nonchalantly wend his way through piles of stock, as he rolled in a new rack of clothes that within a few hours would no doubt be pitched to the floor.
I parked the shopping cart, went to my car for my camera and prowled the store taking pictures. Two are posted here.
My observations on Saturday extend beyond my jolting experience with an off-price retailer, but go to the tragic mindset of much of America. We are in disarray, our minds and souls are cluttered and lack focus. Too many of us nonchalantly slouch through the day, little moved by the debris surrounding us, and gripped by a deadly malaise that reveals the depth of our crisis.
I will be communicating with the CEO of this company and directing him to this blog. His response should be interesting.
Tags: CEO, disarray+America, shopping, shoppers, off+price+retailer, Chula+Vista, Bay+area, Guam