If you’re the mom of a toddler in a non-tropical climate, you’ll probably find yourself at the mall at some point this holiday season. It’s warm, it’s free, you’ve got holiday shopping to do, and sometimes booze in the morning is not an option.
It used to be that shielding your toddler’s eyes from the Build-A-Bear store was the greatest parenting obstacle for mall trips. Now, in addition to that, you have to contend with mall kiosks, whose employees are like commercial piranhas lurking in the bowels of the mall. Yet again, they spent the off-season reproducing at an alarming rate.
Luckily, there are ways for you and your toddler to increase your odds of leaving the mall without purchasing a (second) sports’ logo spatula.
May the following three strategies brighten your holiday and prevent you from repeating last year’s mistake of vandalizing a pyramid of Proactiv.
Strategy 1: Drop That Sample
When you and the tot first venture into the gift-wrapped door of Macy’s, you’ll probably be so relieved you aren’t cleaning crayon off the walls that you’ll be tempted to accept a sample from a kiosk.
That Dixie cup of peppermint tea will feel nice going down, but then you have to stay for the pitch while your toddler kicks you in the leg; otherwise, you are very rude. An hour later, you will walk away with a lifetime supply of tea, a toddler with wet pants, and an empty bank account, all while wondering what happened.
A variation of the sample is agreeing to touch a bamboo pillow, or what did me in, an ergonomic computer mouse. I hadn’t seen or used a mouse in years and forgot they even existed. A wave of nostalgia made me reach out my hand. Must touch this piece of history from my ‘Oregon Trail’ days!
Twenty minutes later, I interrupted the salesman to admit I had no medical history of carpel tunnel that would necessitate the purchase of such a relic and fled the scene.
That’s 20 minutes I’ll never get back. Don’t take the bait.
Strategy 2: Avoid Eye Contact and Appear Unapproachable
If you have any acting background, this is the time to channel the face of your inner TSA employee. Toddlers are experts at antisocial behavior, so your ever-present mall-walking partner will be a natural kiosk employee repellent.
The ground rule here is to not, under any circumstances, make eye contact with these people. You may think that a simple smile and nod is in the holiday spirit and will instill good manners in your offspring, but it’s a small step between that and carrying around a bag of cat calendars.
Some people have the good luck of being born with a resting bitch face, but those of you with the misfortune of having a kind face need to plan ahead. Traveling in a pack is always helpful, especially if the group includes an angry Jewish woman or—you’re in luck!—a toddler. Tantrum-throwing is a plus, so delay that nap and provide a stack of donuts for breakfast.
Appearing unapproachable is very effective with middle-tier kiosk employees, but the more ambitious employees won’t be deterred by mere social cues. I had a run-in with one such worker recently. She physically blocked the path of my stroller to explain how brow-threading would revolutionize my life. At the time, I wondered how any service so life-changing could be performed across from a Claire’s and amidst a cloud of Cinnabon exhaust, but I guess “life-changing” is a subjective term.
An employee like that really requires you to take it to the next level.
Strategy 3: CONFRONTATION!
The third and final strategy is generally reserved for the kiosk Employees of the Year, the ones who have dreamed of selling overpriced bath soap since they were little kids.
You have to immediately gain the upper hand with such people. Don’t wait for the kiosk employee to approach you—get to him first, with a product of your own. It could be oven mitts made my your toddler or your own version of the exact wind chimes he’s selling, but for $1 less. This is an unconventional tactic that they don’t go over in their 30-minute training and will ensure you an unobstructed path to the mall play place so that your child can catch hepatitis before Christmas.
Alternatively, you can continually request additional samples. If he straightens one strand of your hair, demand that the whole head be done, plus your toddler’s mullet, before you’ll even consider a purchase. When he finishes, tell him you want to be sure this product stands the test of time and that you’ll be back tomorrow for a second demo. Get out the cat calendar you bought and try to schedule an actual appointment. I guarantee that booth will go poof! overnight, and you’ll be free to walk in peace.
That is, until Build-A-Bear comes into sight.
Best of luck this holiday season, fellow mommy mall-walkers!