Westfield and Hillsdale Mall Pre-Christmas Shopping

Over the Christmas "holiday," I went on a shopping spree, looking for a coat, a television, a bookcase, and some other minor items. I put holiday in quotes because I spent more time shopping over the course of these four days than I work in a normal week.

Since I went without a coat the previous winter and vowed not to do that again, buying a coat was my highest priority. I figured the best way to do it would be to go to the Westfield Mall, the new flagship mall in San Francisco. Many major department stores have their regional headquarters in the mall, along with many mid and high end retailers.

For the first day of my holiday, I drove to a BART station, took the train into the city, and spent ten hours on my feet (except for two twenty-minute breaks for meals) exploring the Westfield Mall, trying on jackets, and taking countless notes. The next day, I spent a similar quantity of time browsing the web sites of every major clothing retailer, attempting to find jackets I hadn't seen and discerning whether jackets I saw and liked but that weren't in stock in my size were available elsewhere in my size. The third day, I returned via BART to the city, reevaluating items I liked and tracking down items I saw online but originally missed in person, eventually buying three jackets. At the end of the day, I had trouble with my credit card, as the number of purchases in addition to jackets over the last week was so anomalous, the credit card company worried my card was stolen. It occurred to me earlier that my account might get flagged and indeed it was. Finally, on the fourth day, I went to Hillsdale Mall to return and repurchase one jacket, since the price dropped after Christmas. And since I was in the habit, I explored this mall as well.

But the point of this blog post isn't to describe my purchasing experience in detail; rather, it's to serve as a repository of hopefully interesting thoughts I had while shopping.

Random Observations While Shopping:
* Looking around Abercrombie & Fitch's store was unpleasant because the music was so loud and bassy it gave me a headache. Don't they realize it drives customers away?
* Painted With Oil is a cool store. One doesn't usually see high-end art stores in malls. It makes me wish I had a place in which it'd be appropriate to hang paintings.
* A store named Chico's only sells women's clothing?!
* I stumbled upon the Rosetta Stone booth, with an enormous quantity of software designed to teach you any language you want to learn, including ones like farsi and tagalog.
* In a similar vein regarding an absurd variety of items, Lupicia Tea specializes in teas. It has insanely many teas, including some flavored with unusual ingredients like lychee.
* Further in this vein, I found a store that seems to only sell calendars. It had piles of animal calendars, even one for each breed of dog. Not that I'm a calendar user, but I was surprised to notice they only had two food-related ones: one of peppers, the other of assorted fruit.
* Brookstone sells a ball-shaped, wireless, rechargeable speaker called Podz. It made me want to play catch or soccer with it. Probably not the intended use.
* A vending machine in the basement near the food court sells iPods and digital cameras! The last time I saw something like that was in one of the big shopping centers in Manhattan.
* Nordstrom sells some jeans for $300. That's absurd.
* No one carries pants in my size! I'm not that unusually sized, but most stores don't carry pants shorter than 30 inches. Sure, most stores sell my size over the web. But they don't carry my size in their stores. (And I hate buying clothing without trying it on...) Lucky Brand, with its unusual sizing, might be one of the few stores at which I can buy pants.
* I'm particular. And peculiar. Usually I don't like buttons near the end of sleeves (because it looks too formal), but a few times it's fine because I don't notice. Sometimes a jacket is too suit-like that it puts me off. Another I discarded because of an inch-long green line. Wrong buttons are common. Zippers often don't feel right. And a few I can't believe I have to admit I skipped simply because I didn't like the look of the stitching.
* I spent some time paralyzed with indecision. After I'd already bought a leather jacket and a long wool one, I was tempted to buy a particular top-coat. It was the only top-coat I've ever seen that I liked and fit me. And they had it two colors: gray and brown. I couldn't decide which. And it was on sale. But I found out that meant it couldn't be returned, meaning if I showed it to friends and they disapproved, I'd be stuck with it. I debated about paying full price so I could later return it. In the end, I passed on it. As in the last few months I've never felt the need for a coat in that style, I don't regret it.

One day for lunch I headed to 'wichcraft, a semi-fancy sandwich shop in San Francisco. I had the only sub-eight-dollar sandwich, its version of grilled cheese: cheddar, mustard, pear slices, ham on cranberry rye. They worked well together; I enjoyed it.

At another time, I managed to make my way to Beard Papa, a popular chain that specializes in cream puffs. Originally from Japan, it's now expanding into North America and getting the same sort of press and buzz that Krispy Kreme did when it started expanding. I'm not normally a fan of cream-filled items like eclairs, but I really liked this one and now understand what all the talk is about. My puff was hot and light and made a wonderful and messy contrast with (also light!) cool vanilla filling.

For dinner one day, I headed to Wolfgang Puck Express because someone I know whose taste I trust swears by it. I had a good pesto chicken sandwich on focaccia, a huge side Caesar that was almost a meal in itself, and a large amount of water because I was seriously dehydrated by the end of the day. I was satisfied with the quality. They have much better quality control than chains of similar size.

Westfield Mall:
Westfield Mall has a nice, ornate dome, only visible from the top two of its five or so stories. It'd be nice to sit at one of the tables in the space, read, and enjoy a break from the shopping commotion. Sadly, I didn't have time for it.

In another part of Westfield Mall, there's a columnar atrium with circular escalators spiraling up the perimeter. Think about that. Yes, the escalators are curved. It's a subtle but cool engineering feat. I wonder if I'm the only person shopping there that thought about it.

Pretty lights on cords over twenty feet long dangled into the atrium. I thought this was impressive until I went into Nordstrom.

Nordstom's central atrium had blue lights on cords over a hundred feet long. I know; I counted stories. Now that was impressive! Bulbs were spaced every six inches or so along each cord.

Hillsdale Mall:
Hillsdale was remarkable to me for two reasons.

One, I'd normally have thought Hillsdale was a respectable mall given its size and variety. However, after shopping at Westfield, I now see all the things I'm missing in a non-headquarters mall. All the department stores are a quarter to half the size of their Westfield counterparts. And Westfield has the general bonus of having some uncommon, primarily European retailers.

On the other hand, Hillsdale has a Lego retail store. I didn't know these existed. Among all the kits in the store, it also has numerous bins of pieces of whatever shape one needs. This would've been unimaginably useful when I was a kid building stuff with legos.

1 comment:

mark said...

I've been reminded Westfield Mall's food court is substantially better than a normal mall's. Lots of ethnic food and few generic fast food purveyors. Added this observation as a comment since it appears I forgot to mention it in the original post.