First off, let’s just say I loathe shopping. Hour wandering around the store trying to find everything, unhelpful (if even findable) service, and me progressively losing patience with roughly everything in the universe.

At some point, though, it penetrated the haze of impatience that the problem I was seeing is analogous to that of faceted classifications vs. linear shelving. Electronic catalogs are great in that they allow us to search and browse in faceted ways, like I think most of us think. But whenever you have to put actual physical objects on shelves, you have to break that paradigm; there’s only one order they can go in. (Perhaps if you are very nerdy, and your products can be fully specified along a small number of axes which have few values, you can do a partial ordering, taking advantage of the vertical nature of shelving and more complicated arrangements, but really, who are your patrons then? And what are you selling?)

So anyway, here I am trying to find, e.g., a backpack for a toddler. Does it go in the children’s section, near toddler clothes? Does it go in the back-to-school section, which exists only at this time of year (and is admittedly a good idea even if it reclassifies things according to a wholly different facet than the norm)? The various sections of the store are labeled, but there’s so many facets I might treat as primary that the labels are unhelpful. (And in this case, really, “so many” means “more than one”.)

I need a tool to help me navigate. Knowledgeable, easy-to-find sales staff with social skills would work, but that seemed not to be the store’s priority. Kiosks that let me search an inventory and gave me a map would help. Luckily, these are things that libraries often (not always…) do well, and care about. But there is no LC, or other standardized classification system, for this sort of store.

(The answer, by the way? “Luggage”. But only if you want it to be hideously appliqued with brightly colored, strongly gendered merchandised characters. Otherwise you are out of luck.)

3 thoughts on “targeting

  1. This is why I hate malls. And Target.

    I usually like Lands’ End’s stuff, but I just looked for the little backpack I’d gotten for my kids, the ClassMate Junior, and it doesn’t seem to exist any more. What they do have is a “Boy’s Preschool Backpack.” Okay, Lands’ End has just totally failed me.


  2. I second your frustration, and recommend going online. Land’s End, Eddie Bauer perhaps, or one of the other higher-end sellers of children’s clothing, are far more likely to be able to provide you with a reasonable, plain, non-merchandized backpack. Also, the absurd size of many backpacks, relative to most young children, bugs me. I cannot count the number of early elementary-aged children I’ve seen in recent weeks sporting backpacks sized for teenagers. They don’t fit, they look absurd, the kids can’t be comfortable carrying any sizable weight in something that ill-fitting, and of course, they all share the “strongly gendered merchandized characters” problem. And yet backpacks sized for preschoolers likely don’t fit the bill, either, being too small to hold even one standard-sized textbook, so I understand the dilemma that leads parents to outfit their children this way. *sigh*

    Also, many of the “back-to-school” sections have already disappeared. Because, of course, everyone is supposed to have already completely outfitted their child(ren) for the entire school year, and can’t possibly have forgotten anything. *rolls eyes*

    I am increasingly coming to prefer online shopping, where I can search according to my preferred facet, can check my child’s actual measurements against their sizing charts without making the child try on multiple outfits in multiple stores, and can get my selections delivered to my home (which means that someone else gets to do the driving!). If I really think that trying something on in person is important, I can at least verify that the store in question has what I’m looking for before I load kids in car, drive long distances in annoying traffic, etc.



    1. PS The library, OTOH, thanks to that handy library catalog, is much more enjoyable in person. Although I will admit that in my eyes, its choice of books over clothes gives it an automatic advantage. 🙂


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