The Seven Stages of Shopping at Sawgrass Mills Mall During the Holidays

It seems like just yesterday you were laughing at your coupon-cutting aunt for rushing to Target before dawn on Black Friday. Now she’s laughing at you, because December is almost over and you procrastinated, once again, with your holiday shopping. The worst part is: You know that the only place where you can buy that coupon-cutting aunt one of those relaxation adult coloring books and every coworker an apple-cinnamon scented candle and some remote-controlled drone toy for your nephew Timmy is at Sawgrass Mills Mall, the largest single-story mall in the United States.

New Times conducted a small anthropological study of holiday shopping at Sawgrass Mills, the busiest place in South Florida this December. Our research of the mall's 2.4 million square feet has shown that mall-goers experience seven distinct stages of shopping:

Stage #1: Giddy anticipation

That’s how it starts out. You think you’ve figured it out. You’ve studied the mall directory. You’ve planned your route. You had egg whites for breakfast and are determined to do all your holiday shopping on one day, in one place. You think you’ve beaten the system. You tell loved ones you’ll be back by dinner. Sure, the off ramp onto Flamingo Road is already backed up and there isn’t a parking spot in sight. You decide to park at Rooms to Go almost a half-mile away and laugh at the baby boomers circling the lot like vultures, trailing shoppers from the entrance with their emergency blinkers on. Endorphins are pulsing through you. This is it.

Stage #2: Disorientation
You start on Avenue 3 and you’re throwing elbows on your way to Bath and Body Works to buy everyone who’s too old for presents a scented candle. You’ve made a few quick stops already and ducked out of the line of sight of the kiosk hawkers. You’re on a roll, you think, when suddenly you find yourself at a crossroads: Is Bath and Body Works to the left, or is it just a little farther down this hallway? You’re looking left and right for a mall employee. There is no one. You’re looking for a sign somewhere, but there’s a Brazilian family already crowding in front. You take a deep breath and trust your gut. Go left.

Stage #3: Hunger pangs
You start to doubt yourself. You’re too busy looking up at store names and tripping on suitcases. You curse the suitcase-wheeling shoppers. You bump into the husbands and dads standing on the sidelines, outside of stores, peeled to their phones. They don’t even flinch. You question whether left was really the way to go. You think your gut betrayed you. Then you realize you’re just hungry. You follow the scent of Cinnabon.

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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson