The retrospective, full-on, face-to-face purchasing experience.

This is a rather satirical short story looking at the future of our globalised, centralised shopping malls that adorn our city centres. I hope you like it. (smirky-smirk)

March 15th 2078

I’m taking yet another group of tourists around the Shopping Mall Museum. It’s all a bit dull. ‘Come and see how our parents (or grandparents, depending on the age of the tourist) used to go about the business of acquiring new items for their home or person,’ I say. You know the thing. How it was in the ‘old days’. Same old speak, day in day out.

Why do they get so excited? I know when I go on holiday, it’s the last thing I want to see. I just want to rest somewhere sunward and drink a nice beverage. This walking around the Old Mall for hours, it wears you out.

I always have to tell them not to touch any of the exhibits apart from the ones in the gift shop. They don’t understand. But we can’t have all those old relics falling apart in their hands, can we? It’s not like we have great warehouses full of replacement stuff, is it, smirky-smirk.

I must admit, it is very funful to take them to the gift shop experience. The children look on with round-eyed wonder when I show them the little plastic cards and explain that for only 200 credits, they can get a charged mock-charger-card and can go over to the shelves and rails in the mockstore and choose a purchase before moving to the register for a face-to-face transaction with a human store assistant, just like they did only fifty years ago on this very spot. Even the adults get a bit misty-eyed thinking of about their parents doing this almost on a daily basis.

There’s always one funster at the back who wants to know why the Shopping Mall experience came to an end. But usually there’s an elder on hand to tell everyone how bad it was back then, all the queuing, and carrying of items, and the long, long selection process. ‘Imagine,’ says the oldster, ‘imagine having to select everything you want. Not just one or two things like you do here in the mockstore, but everything you need. Imagine choosing it all, how long it must have taken to pay for it, and that’s even before you try to get it home.’

Everyone nods at the oldster’s wisdom, and it makes so much sense. They gasp when I tell them it wasn’t uncommon for people of all ages and abilities to queue for as much as three to four minutes to make their purchase. They shake their heads as they go. ‘No one’s got that kind of time,’ they say. ‘How patient, they must have been. How much they must have suffered.’

When we leave, everyone feels a little sadder, a little wiser, more enlightened. Even those clutching a mock-shopper containing their Purchase seem a little wary of what they have done. It’s as if they know they have entered into a transaction with the past and it has changed them forever. It’s easily two minutes before anyone says smirky-smirk or grabs a self-snap. It makes me realise how important it is to keep this knowledge of the old ways alive. It makes me feel so humble.