An ode to department stores

CHRIS ARNESON, Evergreen columnist

Acandlelight vigil was held last night on the doorstep of the Bloomingdale’s located at 1000 3rd Avenue in New York City. The headquarters of this department store, a former titan of industry, Rockefeller just blocks from 30 Rock, has disintegrated into ash, and not the good kind you put on your face.

Bloomingdale’s is the final of the major American department stores to fall since Amazon drones have usurped the power of the individual consumer. From Nordstrom to Macy’s to Sears to Barneys, if your grandmother has shopped there, it is no longer in business. It is a sad, sad day for many would-be in-person shoppers, an activity that is quickly becoming just a memory in the vein of PBS telethons.

Gone are the days when an 11-year-old you was dragged along to the mall with your aunt and uncle, who were just in town for a few days from Chicago. The times when you stomped the aisles of Nordstrom like a foot soldier, preparing yourself to go into the battle against eye-popping deals, will linger on as foggy memories.

I’m talking about shoes stacked as high as Stonehenge but twice as boring, from Toms to Uggs to Crocs to Bogs. That device the salesperson uses to measure the size of your foot should be on a plaque in a Cooperstown of department stores somewhere. You’ll be bouncing your grandchildren on your knee one day and amusing them with the story of that one time you snuck through the “Employees Only” door.

Remember the chair that men used to sit in while they waited for their partner to come out of the dressing room? Those chairs have been banished to retirement homes and tribal casinos; that once La-Z-Boy now transformed into a La-Z-Man.

Think back to the glory days of swatting off free-sample-givers, whose drive-by perfume sprays could not go overlooked. Those fragrance pushers have been displaced to Costco, where they are unable to focus on the aromatic part of life and instead have to demonstrate the new Blend-O-Matic, on sale for only $39.95.

Gone are the impulse purchases of products near the register, items you would never use, like that ceramic horse or Chia Pet that you forgot to water. Remember when you bought those earrings at Sears for only $14.99, even though your ears were not (and still aren’t) pierced? You could have stopped by Claire’s on the way out of the mall, you had so much time while your aunt and uncle were looking at that shelf of snow globes even though it was July.

On the business side of things, department stores will be missed for their illustrious board meetings, prompted by large red arrows on unspecified graphs pointing down, indicating a net loss.

Department stores will leave us with many great memories, like the time you couldn’t find your car in the parking garage or when your aunt and uncle bought you that snow globe in the middle of summer.