Business Interactions: “The Mall as Refuge”

One example that would best describe business interactions are the malls. Lewis, in his article “The Mall as Refuge” referred to these establishments as “economic monoliths” which have evolved from simple shopping centers to “a kind of civic center” able to offer various services to the public (Lewis pg. 304). Business is always present since every move would usually entail a form of monetary exchange – x bucks for x products or services. Along with the growing concept and structure of malls is its evolving role in the lives of the public. Aside from serving as a venue where all necessities could be bought, it seems to have earned a special place in the consumer’s hearts. Whether the relationship between the living and the non-living is good or otherwise is what this paper shall tackle.

This paper shall argue that, “while the mall’s main purpose is to make a profit, it has become, like Frankenstein’s Monster, an uncontrollable beast that has, unwittingly, generated a host of unwanted social pathologies including” 1) encouragement of an addiction; 2) option to slack off and not face obligations; 3) encouragement of individualism rather than communism and 4) ability to stir up materialism limiting human’s happiness to mere coins and paper money (title of exercise)

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Addict is defined by Reader’s Digest Word Power Dictionary as a “person who has become dependent on a harmful substance especially drugs” (pg 16). A follow up definition from the same source would describe addict as “someone very interested in or fond of something” (pg 16). Addiction then could range from a simple attraction, to harmful obsession. Kowinski, in his article Mallaise: How to know if you have it, mentioned that one symptom of “mallaise” would be a sense of weakness (pg. 326). You seem to be vulnerable to the mall’s imaginary power. Even if you want to turn your back from all the shops and craze happening inside, your feet seems to have grown roots and you can’t move out (Kowinski, pg. 326). Similar to drugs, it appears to have tied an invisible rope that prevents you from resisting. This is also known as the mall’s “seduction effect” (Kowinski, pg. 235). “The mall attacks you in two contradictory ways simultaneously: It stimulates you on one hand and lulls you into a deep coma on the other” (Kowinski, pg. 235).  Let’s say you have achieved dragging yourself out of the venue, you then experience a kind of depression – a state that was labeled by Kowinski as “Mall Withdrawal” (pg. 326). This could mean a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction as if something’s missing. You suffer withdrawal symptoms like any other addict who are spending time in rehabs. Sometimes, the irresistible force pulling people towards malls gain power once the four letter word is up – SALE. The lawyer in us comes to life. You justify all buys as necessary even if the rational part of your brain, though has the faintest voice, says it’s not. This is a common symptom among mall addicts and “shopaholics” (Confessions of a Shopaholic). These are the people who just swipe their savings and credit cards away, not recognizing limits, for the sake of buying. Instead of alcohol, they crave for new items – bags, clothes etc. All of which in their eyes are ‘worthy investments’. Same as drug addicts and alcoholics, mall addicts and shopaholics suffer terrible consequences. To name a few – mixed priorities not recognizing the necessary from not, putting oneself to a dangerous financial situation, and self disappointment when you find out that you committed the first two sins cited.

Similar to any kind of addiction, the user/addict puts off all obligations and enjoys the trip to their fantasy world. This is best described by Lewis in his essay “The Mall as Refuge”. One of the groups interviewed – “the mall rats and bunnies” – have turned their backs from the world and found comfort inside malls (Lewis pg. 303). Instead of going to school or doing something more productive, they turn to their hang out place to spend time or better yet to hide out  (Lewis pg. 303). For some reason, people find relief in staying inside the malls. Sometimes it is because of this sense of relaxation that we tend to forget that time is passing. Kowinski would count this in as a symptom of ‘mallaise’, “a lack of motivation and a reluctance to face responsibilities” (pg. 324). Since the mall’s doors are open to despairing souls, why not pay a visit? If you don’t want to go to work but not comfy to being trapped in boredom at home, it offers a perfect solution! In the end, when the victim has to come to his/her senses, the unproductive day sinks in. The mall addict sleeps with an empty and dissatisfied soul. Eventually this becomes a habit, and starts to threaten the normal working life of an individual.

A usual scenario during sale: everyone rushes to the store and picks their finds. If you bump with a really rude shopper (or someone who’s just having a bad day), you’ll end up having an enemy instead of an acquaintance. This is one familiar scene that would prove that instead of uniting people, it even divides individuals. If a community is defined as a group of human beings assembled in one area at a particular time, then malls would qualify. But according to Thomas Bender one characteristic of a community is that, “Individuals are bound together by affective or emotional ties rather than by a perception of individual self-interest” (qtd. in Lewis pg. 305). There is a ‘we-ness’ in a community: one is a member” (qtd. in Lewis pg. 305). Usually, we have different reasons why we go to malls. Shopping, to buy a necessity or check out a dress and even meet some friends. Mall visitors are focused on their own goals and purpose for dropping by. Environment is too busy that striking a meaningful conversation with a stranger is impossible. Blough, in his article The Malls Shed their Stores and the people shed their malls pointed out, “What can be more socially alienating when walking through a mall with strangers looking for something that you might want to buy?” (Social Cohesion subtopic). Lewis in his article may have concluded that the elderly and teenage groups who were able to form their community through malls (pg. 314). But no one else cares about their existence aside from themselves. Community’s sense in totality is lacking.

When inside the mall, the distinction between wants and necessity becomes blurred. Kid’s crying because mom didn’t buy them the wanted toy, boyfriends buying girls the most expensive shoes as if it measures how long their relationship would last. Everyone becomes a ‘zombie’ forgetting everything that’s important for a second because of a really nice bag (Kowinski, pg. 324). All of a sudden, the world is reduced to paper money and coins. Life is reduced to your pocket’s limitations. Sheperd, in his article Mall Culture, shares a sad realization, “People have to be unhappy for our way of life to continue. For if we didn’t ceaselessly want new things, there would be little to sell or cart about” (“Mall Culture”). The mall is one perfect example of an entity that is thriving because of a discontented public. I don’t want the wardrobes left in my closet, I visit the mall. The newest model of x mobile has come out, I’ll buy one at the nearest mall. We just don’t run out of reasons for being discontented. This feeling of endless displeasure was also described by Guterson in his article, Mall as Prison (qtd. in 1C Lesson Plan). Treating ourselves once in a while with worldly treasures is fine. But sometimes, we just get addicted. We forget. And we fall into the trap of materialism.

Malls are made for some people to make profit and the public to enjoy. But some things just evolve to something we never thought it would be. It has become man’s constant companion and temptation to satisfy worldly needs. But in the end, we also have some thoughts to ponder on. Malls are mere establishments. People operate it. Shoppers decide. It may serve as temptation but it’s us who has the capacity to say yes or no. Thinking again, we might be giving too much credit to malls. It might be just the catalyst in the making of the uncontrollable monster inside each one of us.

Works Cited

“Addict.”  Reader’s Digest Word Power Dictionary. Philippines 1998.

Blough, Les. “The Malls Shed their Stores and the People Shed their Malls.” 2009. June 4, 2009


Confessions of a Shopaholic. Directed by PJ Hogan. With Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Krysten

Ritter. Walt Disney, 2009.

Kowinski, William. “Mallaise: How to Know if you have it.” Writing and Reading Across the

Curriculum, Brief Ed. 10.01 (2008): 324-326

Lewis, George. “The Mall as Refuge.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, Brief Ed.

10.01 (2008): 304-315.

Sheperd, Steven. “Mall Culture.” Nov. 1998. June 3, 2009.  

“1C Lesson Plan for “The Mall as Prison” by David Guterson (286).” Web page. Breakthrough

Writer. May 18, 2009. June 3, 2009


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Business Interactions: “The Mall as Refuge”. (2017, Feb 22). Retrieved from