Exploring two malls that I have known my whole life and have learnt to enjoy and pass time in for this project really challenged me. The first thing I noticed was how quickly the perceptions of those in the mall changed when I was alone versus when I was with my group. When I was alone, I was treated as a potential customer, rather than a student ( I did not bring a backpack). Smiles all around. The second I joined my group mates (two males), I felt as if we were being watched. Suddenly, we were a "mob" to watch out for, sketchy students slowly walking around, writing notes and taking pictures. I even went back to Bayshore with a group of females who were shopping (I joined as a personal experiment). I made it a point to be "well dressed", while I knew my companions would be casually dressed. Every store we entered, we received looks and stares, and overall, were not treated too nicely. How quick someone could be "othered" is outstanding - what really opened my eyes, however, is if I were in the position of those store associates or customers, I also would carefully watch a group of young girl. I still do in my job and I take it personally if there is a theft. The way I am reflecting my store's values is in all honesty, separate from my own beliefs, yet I act on them when I am in work.

Secondly, I have worked in malls where security would escort solicitors out. What I have come to realize is how the mall is a place to spend time, to watch others, and a place to be. Sometimes, there genuinely is no where else to go or to do. My father really brought this into perspective for my when he discussed passing the time in the Rideau Centre food court during 1988-89 when he first came to Canada. Without much money or knowledge of what to do, he and those he bonded with would spend their hours inside the mall people watching and learning. Life was changing and it was frightening, yet, the mall was a sense of comfort because it was familiar. The mall was so depended upon that when my father was eventually placed in an apartment with a roommate in front of West Gate shopping centre, he took the only bus route he knew to Rideau to get groceries from the Metro (previously IGA) because he was too unsure to explore and realize there was one just by his new home. To think of those like my father, who depend and need the mall as security be looked down on, talked about or kicked out is sickening to me now. Particularly with Bayshore, new immigrants tend to have young children that they pass the time with in the shopping centres. Many, including myself, have been irritated by the large amount of children running around and screaming. Why does it bother me, or you? What threat do they pose?  It's our privilege and way of life that allows us to judge and assume, but after this project, I can confidently say I have an understanding of the necessity of the mall for such families. 

Third, I never realized how "branded" I am until I finished this work. I am in one way, ashamed for what I own, but in another context, I am happy I understand the meaning of it all. The notion of purchasing to keep the high and happiness that counters ontological insecurity really resonated with me. I recall boxing day every year where I torture myself by waking up at 6AM, bussing to Rideau and waiting at each hour interval for stores to open. The excitement of it all is beyond belief! I get all these "deals" and brands I'd never pay full price for and I sit laughing, thinking I did something good for myself. A $200 purse later, I sit frowning and staring at it as it hangs near my closet. Could not have used it more than 5 times (I believe a few weeks later, I got a "better" one for my birthday).

Finally, I came to understand how similar Rideau Centre and Bayshore Mall are. Our intention was to note differences, but what did we expect to find when the malls are competing against one another? Of course they'd be similar! From the same stores, to the amount of security guards, to their services, there really is nothing more than a couple store difference to note. Overall, our trip to these malls has really shaken up what our previous understandings were - I see how we can fall for advertisements, and I see how we succumb to various identities. I also see how we watch others and ourselves, trying to n
 
 
The visit to Bayshore mall and Rideau Center gave me a better sense of who the primary targets of the malls are.  In the case of Rideau, I was originally aware that homeless people were targeted by the mall but I did not realize how important it is for the mall as a whole to keep those individuals outside.  By constructing a bridge above Rideau Street, it allows the customers the ability to avoid encountering the homeless people outside on Rideau Street.  The use of CCTV surveillance cameras also made me feel uncomfortable because I felt that I could not go anywhere without being under any form of surveillance; whether it was by security or the surveillance cameras.  In terms of Bayshore, we felt as though it was youth and immigrants that had been placed with the watchful eye. It was especially true if you entered the store as a group.

The mall strictly forbids taking photographs within the mall.  By breaking this rule I felt a little uncomfortable because, even though we did not caught, I always felt that at any point someone could approach me and ask me to leave.  We had a situation where we got caught right outside the Apple Store.  The staff was starring us down from inside the store, and after realizing that they had seen us, we quickly made an escape without trying to attract any attention to ourselves. We tried again at Bayshore, but the situation was even worse because the area around the Apple store is out in the open and everyone can see you from every angle, as well as from above.  As a student, I usually felt that we were the targets for the mall for consuming purposes, however, as students we are actually targets for the mall as potential criminals and thieves.  As students, we are placed under the microscope by the mall – In Old Navy, we had our backpacks on and were taking a look around. The sales associates were staring at us and we were bombarded a few times asking if we needed to be helped. It became so awkward we left, even though we had done nothing wrong.

I also found the use of advertisement interesting because of the terms used.  The advertisement is directly targeted to teenagers, and young adults.  The hidden messages within the advertisement were interesting to note as well.  The use of key words related the product with body figures.  For example, at Bluenotes in both Bayshore and Rideau, there was an advertisement that read “Slim is In,” hinting that slim is the ideal figure and that if you want it, you must chase and yearn for it. Furthermore, this idea of the chase also alludes to exercise in order to get that body you want – perfect time for the summer. 

 
 
Our study at the mall left me feeling somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, I never saw myself as part of the consumption-to-satisfy group. I was never particularly into shopping, or new fashion trends, etc. and thus felt unaffected by “new is always better” marketing. However, after doing this project, I notice the way ontological insecurity can affect even someone like me. When I see my friends with a new phone or video game, a feeling of inadequacy typically accompanies it for me. Also, when I purchase something, like the newest Call of Duty, I often share it on Facebook so that others can see what I have. Indeed, almost a sense of accomplishment is felt when you are the part of a popular movement, regardless of its level of commodification. Just the act of buying something makes us feel good.

The Rideau Center is located in the heart of the city and tons of foot traffic goes through the building every day, including myself. Things changed during this project, though – I felt awkward and apprehensive stopping and taking pictures of signs because it violated the norm (no other shoppers were doing it) and this was even before we got the list of mall rules. I didn’t want to get kicked out even though I knew my intent was simply to gather information. Bayshore was even worse just due to it being slightly unknown territory for me. It seemed smaller and as if everyone was watching my every move. It became increasingly apparent the more time I spend inside the mall that I was supposed to consume and get out. A part of me feels that I am a citizen of Canada and I shouldn’t have to feel apprehensive about my movement in any way. At the same time, those who own the space should be allowed to set the rules however they wish. Although the inclusion/exclusion seems unfair, I believe it is merely a reflection of the attitudes of consumers.

 

    Authors

    Yadgar Karim, Scott Wood and Hymers Wilson

    We are each third year students in the University of Ottawa's Criminology program. 

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