The new playground: Has shopping replaced healthy leisure activities?

By Nico Salvatori
Opinion Editor

Working as an electronics salesman at my local Target store grants me the vantage point to observe and study humankind in its most primal state, in its saliva-inducing desire for mere things.

During every shift, I witness the crude awe in people’s faces after a successful sales pitch in which I’ve delineated the life-altering features of the iPad, or the benefits of having a retina-incinerating 70-inch HDTV.

Marveling at recent technological advancements is not hard or uncommon, especially for a jaded junkie like myself, but understanding the almost-religious devotion Americans have for very expensive pastime enablers is something of a struggle. Some of us pay thousands of dollars to sit at home and stare at something for hours on end. Others pay just as much for portability, for the chance to stare at something on the go for hours on end. We have an aversion to boredom it seems, and an unhealthy affinity for distraction out of a fear of going insane during the microsecond of sensory deprivation—which some of us call “peace”—between turning off the TV and reaching for the tablet. Luckily, we no longer have to wait for our devices to boot up. Imagine five minutes alone with ourselves. Disturbing stuff, right?

I’m talking about a very specific type of shopper, one whose reverence for things is in direct contrast to the shopping tendencies of another demographic: children between the ages of about five and twelve.

Most shrewdly, the toy department is adjacent to the electronics department in Target stores. Once again, my profession grants me the same anthropological vantage point to observe and study the younger demographic. Where adults revere the things they want, children destroy their desired toys out of an insatiable possessive instinct. A quick glance at the action figure and Barbie doll aisles in any major retailer is a testament to this claim. At the end of every one of my closing shifts, the toy department is reminiscent of the New York City depicted in the final battle of “The Avengers.” It’s as if the Incredible Hulk himself crashed through the ceiling leaving nothing behind but the juvenile debris of his rage for me to clean up after the dust has settled.

When did parents decide that taking their children to retail stores to burn off energy was a better alternative than an actual playground or any other activity suitable for such a purpose? And when did parents become so inattentive to their children’s behavior in public places?

What we need is an all-encompassing, universal etiquette for customers. It can come in pamphlet form or can manifest itself as an unspoken agreement. Either way, the shopping experience should not facilitate the emergence of our inner savages. We live in the 21st century and shopping carts are not trash cans. The distinction has always been quite clear to me.


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