The End Of Department Stores?

by Zoë Pollock

They may all be going the way of the department store piano player. Jenna Sauers summarizes the changing market:

RIP, big box store, 1980s-2010s: now the we can all find limitless selection online, the point of having a poorly organized 200,000 square foot warehouse of a store populated by underpaid, overworked, constitutionally unhelpful polo-shirted drones is rather moot, and with more people living in urban centers (where real estate is more expensive), a denser pattern of development make more sense. J.C. Penney just opened a smaller store in Daly City, California, and is rolling out more stores in the 50,000-60,000 square foot range. Wal-Mart has started opening 15,000 square foot Wal-Mart Express stores, and Target has its smaller CityTargets.

Nothing taught me more humility than working in a Belk's shoe department in North Carolina. As a gross understatement, there's something humbling about putting someone's shoes on for them, bunions and all. Which makes me think there are always certain jobs that end up defining who you are.

Working at Party City in high school, we could wear any costume we wanted around Halloween. I've now come to terms with the fact that I'll never grow out of dressing up, and that edible underwear does not taste as good as you'd hope. At the independent movie theater during college, I realized just how democratic the movies are. One guy would pay for his ticket with a softball-sized wad of money, another would use our bathroom just to yell loudly and then politely wave goodbye and thank us on his way out.  There were those who'd compliment your feet (weird) or talk about what book you were reading (nice). For me, having worked in the service industry means you look people in the eye and don't treat them like an asshole. Going to parties smelling like popcorn and butter was just a sexy side effect. Regale us with your stories of lessons learned on the job by sending us an e-mail (

(Photo by Flickr user fpat)