I worked for one full year at the infamous monolith we call the Mall of America. That isn’t near as long as some of my friends, who’ve spent several years down in those trenches. Truly, only the strong survive.
The Mall of America, which is located in scenic Bloomington, MN (suburb of Minneapolis), can hold seven Yankee Stadiums OR 258 Statues of Liberty. According to MOA’s website, it would take you 86 hours to see the entire mall if you spent 10 minutes in each store. There’s an aquarium with sharks, a movie theater, a ton of restaurants, lots of novelty shops, an amusement park and even a wedding chapel. I always forget, living in such close proximity to it, that it’s a giant tourist attraction. To me, it’s just a big suburban mall.
In working 40 hours a week (and continuing to shop there, because I mean, why wouldn’t I?) at the Mall, I learned a lot of lessons about people, retail and yes, life. Let me share my wisdom with you. Here’s what you learn when you spend a lot of time at the Mall of America:
1. You know what to do during busy weekends: drive straight to the top of the parking ramp. Trust me. Your stress levels will be much lower as you won’t be slowly circling, screaming at slovenly tourists unloading strollers from their massive pickups.
2. You learn how to command a line of shoppers forcefully, with just a hint of undetectable hatred in your voice. There’s a real power to wrangling your Black Friday customers into orderly lines, or at least a semblance of a line. You are basically a cowboy wrangling cattle at this point.
3. You know just how to zigzag, merge and bypass groups of people strolling slowly through the Mall gawking at everything. It’s almost like a video game!
4. Because of this skill, you can get from one side of the Mall to the other in 10 minutes or less. Your break time is precious. (Hint: Sometimes, it’s smart to cut through the amusement park.)
5. Mall of America’s semi-hidden Holiday convenience store becomes your version of Cheers. Everybody knows your name, because everyone shopping there works at the Mall. It’s the fastest and least exasperating place to grab some food.
6. You know that Nordstrom Cafe’s kids’ menu grilled cheese comes with delicious tomato soup, fruit AND chips for only $5. (Though I’ve heard they raised it a dollar.)
7. You still call it Camp Snoopy, even though it’s been the bland “The Park at MOA” for a few years now.
8. You also know the rumor of the little boy who jumped off the Log Chute ride and died because he was terrified of the anamatronic Paul Bunyon. That statue IS scary as hell.
9. Mall security had a short-lived reality show, Mall Cops.
10. That said, mall security can be super, super slow when you need them most.
11. You know that holding a door for a mom struggling with toddler, stroller and additional child will earn you her eternal gratitude.
12. You know all about “lockdown,” though you rarely ever have to put it into practice. (I only went into serious lockdown once, during the notorious Mall Brawl on Dec. 26, 2011. There were riots in the food courts!)
13. You know your mall discount at every participating store. Sea Life is free!
14. You tell your friends to shop on Tuesday, which is the slowest day.
15. You have cues to tell where each tourist is from. (For me, burgundy/blonde Kate Gosselin haircut and bedazzled jeans = North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska).
16. You occasionally interrupt conversations between lost, confused patrons to help them find their destination.
17. You have a favorite MOA fast food joint, or you did until you took the trash out in the back hallways…
18. The parking levels, as color-coded and state-themed as they are, mean nothing to you now. You always park in the same area during the week and rarely ever lose your car.
19. When you DO lose your car, however, all hell breaks loose! Where the hell did I park it? Was it Nevada? Arizona?
20. One of the mall cops has asked out someone at your store.
21. You’ve worked a Black Friday, and observed as it gets earlier and earlier every year.
22. You may have cussed someone out in the parking garage.
23. You’ve had to park at Ikea once or twice. You are scarred for life.
24. You and your coworkers were very excited when ___ opened. (Jamba Juice/Bruegger’s Bagels/a new sushi place/etc.)
25. You have questioned your desire to procreate after a particularly hellish weekend.
26. You’re on the lookout for hot dads or MILFs during Toddler Tuesday.
27. You’ve learned that teenage girls, especially those who travel in flocks, are a terrifying thing indeed.
28. You have a crew of “mall friends” and you hook each other up when you can.
29. You know which Starbucks moves fastest and you commiserate with the baristas when it’s crazy.
30. You do not bat an eye when you see people in pajamas, slippers, dressed as unicorns, a flock of Santas … because anything and everything can and will happen at the Mall.