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

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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.

Stage #4: Second wind
That Cinnabon was the best idea you’ve ever had. You wedge your way onto one of the brown leather couches to eat it. It’s the first time you put your shopping bags down all day. The sounds of babies crying are drowned out by the sound of your chewing. You feel the blood rush into your fingers. Now, time to power-shop. Energized, you jump off the couch and continue your quest.

Stage #5: Buy a suitcase
The shopping bags are pressing down on your arms and cutting off circulation to your hands. Again. You think how nice it would be to wheel all your gifts behind you. After all, Santa had a sleigh and reindeer to do the heavy lifting. Suddenly, you understand the suitcase-wheelers. They had it figured out all along. You stop by the T.J. Maxx, where scores of suitcases in all colors and sizes are displayed at the window. They knew.

Stage #6: Tension headache
You’ve already bought your gifts. You’re dragging them behind you. You’re sweaty from exertion. You’re just about ready to go when you realize that you really should’ve bought that dress on the sale rack at Forever 21. You’ve been telling yourself all day you can live without it, but now you’re nearing the exit and you miss it. You decide to turn back. But all the fluorescent lights are making you dizzy. It’s been hours, and you don’t know if it’s even light outside. You have cabin fever. You see the massage chairs at Body Image calling your name. You stay strong — even though your calves are cramping — and strut all the way back to Forever 21. You think they’re out of your size, but then some nice clerk finds the last one on the dressing-room rack. Everything’s turning up roses, until you realize you have to wait in the seemingly never-ending check-out line.

Stage #7: Run for the Escape 
That took forever. And you’re over it. You need to get out of this place already. You’re trying to remember where you parked. A part of you wants to run outside, skip the taxi queue, and never come back again. You’re stronger than that. You had egg whites for breakfast. You push past the children sitting on the carts. You push past adults sitting on the carts. This is mayhem! Why isn’t anyone pushing you on a cart?! You get jealous of babies being carried. You want to retreat to childhood and throw a tantrum. But then you see the doors and light at the end of the hallway. You’re free. A baby boomer in an SUV asks if you’re leaving. You nod. Susan follows you for the next half-mile to the Rooms to Go parking lot with her emergency blinkers on. When you pull out, a soccer mom in a Honda Odyssey takes your spot before Susan did. You smile to yourself and watch them hash it out in your rearview mirror. Sawgrass Mills Mall during the holidays is hell on Earth — but you know you'll be back next year.

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