This holiday season, you’ll hear a lot about buying local — including from us here at the Phoenix. But the truth is that at some point or another, many seasonal shoppers end up at that 1.2 million-square-feet consumer behemoth otherwise known as the Maine Mall.

With that in mind, we sent one brave writer on something of a shopping safari. Spend one full day at the mall, we told her, and tell us what you see, smell, and hear. (Go on a Sunday, when the mall is only open from 11 am to 6 pm, and your task will be slightly less painful, we added.) She agreed — we were shocked, too — and annotated her visit via voice memos on her phone.

Whether these observations get you geared up for a shopping spree or reinforce your vow to stay away from the mall at all costs, we won’t judge (much).

Sunday, November 10, 2013
11:10 am There are an astounding amount of people here at ten past 11. So many cars! It wasn’t difficult to find a spot but many, many rows were full. Do these people not brunch? Do Mall People not brunch? Or should I chalk this up to the staggering draw of the Veterans Day sales?

11:14 am The Apple store is packed. Mall has only been open 14 minutes.

11:15 am Looks like Santa isn’t here yet but his special village is being set up. It’s so cool! “Push Here” and the railroad crossing sign goes up. Presented by the Maine Garden Railway Society and a bunch of salty old dudes. (If this is your thing, watch “Train Videos from the 2013 Maine Mall Display” at

11:18 am Papyrus is trying to be a one-stop-gift-shop with its selection of toys, books, cards, frames, and gift wrap. This makes me think: Christmas is coming; am I going to send cards? If so, am I going to make them myself or buy local? But they’re here, I’m here, they’re on sale . . . Eight minutes at the mall and I’m already having a crisis of conscience.

12:01 pm Meet a friend at Starbucks. Someone orders a “Grande Upside Down Caramel Soy Macchiato.” C’mon. That’s not even coffee anymore. A woman at the next table eats ice out of a Starbucks cup with a spoon. What the fuck?

12:20 pm Stroller traffic jam outside the Body Shop.

12:21 pm Very pleasing to hear Justin Timberlake’s “Mirror” coming out of Brookstone. Sing-along ensues. #notchristmasyet. I realize that Brookstone may never go out of business thanks to the massage chairs alone. People love touching things. Note to self: Creepy Greasy-Haired Man stays in the massage chair for way too long. Don’t be that guy.

12:27 pm Pretzel Time (a/k/a breakfast)! Sixteen-year-old me would definitely be crushing on the geek behind the counter. Am I allowed to say that?

12:57 pm Starting to see people more than once, such as C.G.H.M. from Brookstone and a quasi-cute guy wearing a blazer who ducked into Aeropostale earlier. Where was I going? Oh yeah. Sephora for a new lipstick . . .

1:12 pm There are so many things in Sephora that I want! It’s alarming!

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