Economic Signpost: Parking at the Mall

I have to say, despite all the ongoing grim economic news, I have a hard time accepting the fact that my country, and my countrymen in particular, are in difficult financial times. What: the American consumer stop spending? That seemed about as likely as Congress deciding it doesn’t need a raise this year! Furthermore, the switchover has been abrupt to say the least. One day, busboys were buying $750,000 houses without so much as a credit check; the next day, businesses are folding right and left cuz no-one’s buying nothing. Obviously, one has everything to do with the other, but when did Americans collectively decide they needed to be more frugal?

Peter and I usually splurge on one gift for each other, but this year, that was out, because we already did our big spending on our big cross-country adventure. I managed to cobble together most of my Christmas shopping with gift certificates (the kind you get as a spiff for having bought in the first place)., This morning, while Peter entertained Neil and Kelly, I decided to brave the hordes at the mall in order to use a Target gift certificate.

I actually debated mentally whether I should ride my bike down or park at a lot across from the mall in order to avoid the anticipated crowds. But I decided to see if I could find a spot in the mall parking lot. To my shock, the parking lot was less than half full, and I found a parking spot almost in front of a store. Sure, it was an “employee shuttle” day during which the mall employees park off-site so there are more spaces free for shoppers, but I’ve never in my life seen a mall lot that empty in December.

I still can’t believe it: maybe it was because I was there early, I told myself; or maybe more shoppers than me have tired of the shopping masses and moved online. But it’s more than that, and really wonder how much and how long consumers will be able to restrain themselves before things go back to normal.

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