It is one of the great annoyances in my life when a store I can’t stand sells a product that I can’t do without. A good example of this is Penzeys Spices, which sells dried spices for low prices. Years ago, when Penzeys had a campaign that asked its mail order customers to choose the location of their new store, I sent in three postcards for Portland. That is about as actively as I have campaigned for anything in my life. Turns out, I needn’t have bothered, because shopping in a brick-and-mortar Penzeys is no fun at all.
When you walk into a Penzeys, you’ll find shelves stocked with two hundred spices–none of which are organized alphabetically–all of which wear labels of the exact same color and are otherwise indistinguishable from one another. Your increasing anxiety that the cumin is not located roughly between the caraway and dill is only heightened by the surly middle-aged male Penzeys employee who has been eyeing you, from the moment you entered the store, as if you have a sign on your back that says “I’M HERE TO STEAL YOUR SAFFRON.” I guess you can’t really blame him for staring, because, as the only customer in the store, you are all he has to stare at. Don’t try to avoid this man, because he works every shift in the store. He is literally always there.
When it comes to stores I patronize but loathe, however, Penzeys has nothing on lululemon. This quote, emblazoned on the hideously ugly and preachy bags that your overpriced lycra will be thrown into at checkout, sums up everything I hate about that retailer:
First off, not to put too fine a point on it, but clearly the person who wrote this does not have children. I have kids. My kids are awesome. But they are assuredly not the orgasm of my life, which is bacon. This quote is condescending, precious, and vaguely new age-y. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the holy trifecta of offensive marketing.
The quotes on the bags, though very terrible, are not the worst part of the lululemon shopping experience. I’m not even going to talk about the insanity of paying $110 for workout pants and $50 for a sports bra, because that’s been done. Instead, I’m going to talk about Biff. Biff is not his real name. But he is a real person. He is a tall blonde guy who works at the lululemon in the Pearl. So far as I can tell, Biff’s sole function is to humiliate me when I buy sports bras that require the insertion of padding in the boob cups. For those who have not had the pleasure–when you buy a sports bra or tank at lululemon, they come with boob cutlets, but you have to ask for them, and a salesperson has to insert them into the garment while you stand there like a flat-chested idiot, watching. For some inexplicable reason, Biff is usually the one on boob cutlet detail at my particular store. He will literally jump out from behind a post if I even reach for a sports bra.
It is embarrassing enough having to admit that I pad my workout clothes. Why does the person who puts the pads in my workout clothes have to be a guy? Last I checked, there were lots of employers willing to hire white men. Why does Biff have to work at my lululemon?
So I can read your mind: “Yoona, the aggravation–how do you deal?!? And why do you shop there?” First, I hate the store, but my butt loves the pants. As my friend’s college-aged brother once opined, “No one looks bad in yoga pants.” And he’s right, assuming you’re talking about the lululemon groove pant. There is something otherwordly in that luon, the stupidly named fabric that lifts and separates your butt cheeks in a manner pleasing to all. I zumba (check out a related post from my guru and friend, Monica), and my class is filled with 80 women of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and most of them are wearing this pant, or some variation of it. These pants look good on everyone. Second, lululemon understands how to construct a waistband that will hold your stomach in without simultaneously giving you muffin top. If you think that’s an easy feat, think again. Third, I want to throw my credit card at the cashier’s face every time I pay for a pair of their pants, but I don’t really have to pay that often, because their products last forever. They don’t stretch out. They don’t shrink. They don’t pill, unless you wash them with towels. You can even ignore the care instructions and dry them on high heat.
So I’ll probably be shopping at lululemon until someone comes up with a better option.
What stores do you love to hate?