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Nov 19 2014

Crock-Pot Slow Cooker

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Looks like mine, except I don’t have the number 19 on mine

It wasn’t until I hit college that I realized what my parents had been preaching to me about food and getting the most out of the money you spend on it. I had seen my mother, grandmother and sister use a crockpot before but didn’t know how they worked or for what purpose they served. The Christmas of my sophomore year is when my sister gave me the greatest present a college student could want; a 7 quart Crock-Pot slow cooker.

The original All-Purpose slow cooker was developed by Irving Naxon. This was because his grandmother had a recipe that needed to be in the oven all day because it took several hours to cook. Created by Irving Naxon and the Rival Company in 1970, the original slow cooker was produced and then re-introduced it a year later under the name “Crock-Pot”. Slow cookers gained popularity when females gained rights. This way dinner could be hot and ready for the end of the work day. Rival also introduced the removable stoneware to make cleaning easier after dinner.

Crock-Pots can really be bought anywhere. At Walmart, prices for a 7 quart Crock-Pot range from $19.99-34.99. You can also get a programmable Crock-Pot as opposed to a manual setting Crock-Pot. At Kohl’s, prices range from $29.99-49.99 and at J.C. Penney, a 7 quart Crock-Pot is $50.00. On Amazon, the prices range around the same as what’s listed above, but can be lower depending on who the Crock-Pot is being sold through. And of course, on the Crock-Pot website, prices range from $34.99-37.99. There is one accessory that goes with a Crock-Pot and that is a travel bag. The price of the travel bag on the Crock-Pot website is $7.99. At Walmart, Kohl’s, Amazon, prices range from $7.99- 20.39.

There are also off brand slow cookers that can be bought. These are sold by KitchenAid, Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart and Ninja, just to name a few. For the most part, Hamilton Beach has very cheap slow cookers starting at $19.99. The other brands listed above are more expensive because they are extremely nice and well-made kitchen appliances

As far as eWOM, on the Crock-Pot website the overall rating was 4/5 stars. Most customers said that they loved this product and that it was a great size for preparing food for their families. On Amazon as well the rating was a 4/5 stars. These customers were also pleased with the experiences they have had with Crock-Pot.

I love my Crock-Pot and would recommend to anyone that doesn’t have one to invest in one. Crock-Pot’s make buying groceries efficient because you can make soups, stews, meats, and anything you could want inside of the Crock-Pot. You can also make frozen meals in advance and use the Crock-Pot to heat up the meal when the day comes. I can leave my Crock-Pot on overnight and not have to worry about waking up with my food burnt or the house being burnt down. I think Crock-Pot’s are great for college students to have.

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Nov 18 2014

Spotsylvania Towne Center

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At noon on Sunday, November 9th, 2014, I took my suite mate to Spotsylvania Towne Center. It was a clear, slightly-warm-in-comparsion-to-the-past-week day, (so about 55 degrees and sunny) and traffic getting there from UMW through Central Park was a nightmare. An older lady actually laid down her horn as I switched lanes to turn into the main entrance, summing up everyone’s impatience to get to Belk or Macy’s or anything else offered by STC.

Once I managed to actually get into the parking lot, I was met by what easily could have been an acre of relatively newly painted parking spots. On the back and sides of the mall, it was clear that delivery trucks often unloaded cargo, relatively out of view of shoppers. Despite the intense traffic flow, I managed to score a close spot by Dick’s Sporting Goods, which uses the “pretty” mall entrance featuring a canopy and bricks. My suite mate was the only white person of the 8 or so people walking in with us, and we were the youngest and only females. I think that was just a coincidence, however, because the demographic around us changed as we headed into Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Dick’s is probably my most frequented store at STC, usually because I have to go there to replace lost lacrosse gloves or mouth guard, or, most recently, lacrosse balls for my club team. Because of this, I’m rather familiar with their store lay out, but was surprised to see associates rolling out winter ski jackets and equipment. Dick’s is expensive, because they have the newest everything. Ski jackets of the same brand and quality as mine cost far more than what I ever paid, but I wondered if that was in relation to the fact that are few specialty ski shops here versus in my home state. Lacrosse sticks were the same price, though I had to laugh at their selection and quality of stringing materials – they only strung men’s and used Jimalax mesh for the pockets. The most serious men’s lacrosse players seem to always have input on their mesh, and to only have one type seemed unimpressive to me. However, Dick’s does cater towards parents shopping for their children, mostly, when it comes to team sporting goods. Parents who are not as invested as their kids in lacrosse gear probably do not care about the type of stringing they do. Another tell tale sign of lacrosse demographics: lack of ability to string goalkeeper heads. This is a pretty small market, and you can tell that Dick’s employees and shoppers are not concerned.

Dick’s staff seemed to be split evenly between men and women, and one guy immediately asked me if I needed help when as I strolled through rows and rows of women’s Nike apparel. I can never figure out where these store associates materialize from, because wherever “the back” of the store is, the doors are never visible. That’s due to store size, however, because my suite mate and I next went into The Virginia Diner Shoppe.

This is where our trip got interesting. The VDS was a lot smaller than Dick’s, and far more intimate. There was one girl working, and I asked her if they ever received UMW merchandise. (For those who don’t know, VDS is a store that sells collegiate flags, spirit equipment, board games, etc.) She launched into an overly long explanation, talking about how UMW was right down the road (as if we didn’t know) and their licensing rights forbade VDS from selling anything. This surprised me, because UMW is pushing itself in every direction to recruit students and promote school spirit. You would think UMW’s Marketing Team would put us right next to the rest of the “big name” Virginia schools – Old Dominion, Richmond, VCU, etc.

But that’s unimportant. I’m not about to buy a $35 UMW flag from the mall, anyway.

And it sort of seems like no one else would pay that type of money for a flag, because the clearance section was abundant and they looked the same as the ones that were full price. Also, there was only one other “party” in the store with us: a mom and young child looking for some type of gift. Mall shoppers seemed to mostly be concerned with amping up their fall and winter wardrobes, as we found Belk to be the most populated store.

Belk, for those who don’t know, is a department store whose logo would make it appear to be of lesser quality than Macy’s, but is actually pretty much on the same page.

No one asked us if we needed help in Belk, possibly because it was such a big store and my roommate didn’t show too much interest in the products we were looking at. We were mainly interested in Frye boots, which ran the typical price that you would find in Bloomingdale’s or another department store. Styles for Frye boots range in the $200-$400 area, and their selection didn’t appear to be smaller than any other that I had seen. However, what did catch my attention was the large selection “wide calf” boots. In the past, I had needed buy wide calf boots but am happy to say that I got my post-puberty and “freshman 15” weight gains over with. I wondered if

Belk was trying to establish itself as a store that had boots there were harder to find, although their prices were no different.

The boot area was quite crowded, with shoppers toting large bags behind them. We quickly left because of the crowd and whiny children, although they were everywhere outside Belk as well. Shoppers wander through the mall on foot, and are, as in most malls, expected to remember where they parked. This could be easer or harder at Spotsylvania Towne Center, because there is no garage. Younger children are usually pushed in strollers, whereas older ones walk behind their parents or sprint ahead. There is no in between for those aged 12 and younger. Overall, shoppers that day were mostly concerned with their wardrobe for the changing weather, making for a hectic and frazzled experience. Not a single person was even courteous to the poor survey people trying to get their attention, as winter jacket savings were top priority.

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Nov 17 2014

Fieldwork: Spotsylvania Mall

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On Friday, November 14th, I got to Spotsylvania Mall around 11:00. The weather was nice, but it was also cold outside, so it was really the perfect day to be shopping inside. There is a giant parking lot for customers and employees to park in (that is if they choose to drive; the mall is accessible by public transportation as well) and trucks to drop off retail goods. Retail space took many forms inside the mall. Some businesses had actual stores, while others had kiosks or decorative displays in the middle of the floor. There weren’t a lot of customers, but I did notice a lot of mothers with young children and a few older women.

I first walked around a kiosk selling calendars in the middle of the mall. The selection was kind of small, but the man working there was proactive and asked if I needed help finding anything. I was the only customer walking around that display, presumably because kiosk salespeople have the reputation of being kind of pushy.

My next stop was PINK. The store was laid out in typical PINK style, with display cases in the middle of the floor and items on hangers around the perimeter. The only other customer was a young woman who was looking at tee-shirts. I would imagine that since the store caters to high school and college girls it doesn’t get particularly busy on a weekday morning, and the sales associates were taking advantage of this by using the quiet time to restock some displays. They didn’t seem to notice either one of us.

Finally, I stopped at the Coach store. They had a beautiful window display that drew me in, and as soon as I was inside, a sales associate started talking to me. She noticed me looking at a table of jewelry and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. I told her no but she started telling me more about the jewelry and explained that they had more online, too. Every time I walked past a display she felt the need to sell it to me – I thought she was very helpful, but it was also kind of overwhelming considering I was just looking.

I was definitely an outsider observing at the mall that day. It was my first time visiting and I definitely got a bit lost a couple times so I wouldn’t say I was particularly connected. Overall, however, it was a surprisingly nice space for Fredericksburg and a pretty good representation of the average shopping mall.


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Nov 17 2014

Spotsylvania Mall Field Work

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I arrived at the Spotsylvania Mall on November 14th at around 10:50 A.M.- a little early. The weather outside was fair but somewhat brisk, around 40 degrees. Similarly to Walmart, I don’t find that particularly adverse weather effects the amount of people that visit the mall. The large parking lot that surrounds the mall was decently filled up with the vehicles of consumers and mall employees alike. This seems to be the chief mode of transportation, just like at Walmart. While some employees may arrive by public transit, such as the Fred bus system, the majority of mall patrons and workers arrive at their destination via car. The same goes for retail goods, which are transported via trucks.

Inside the mall there is a multitude of large chain retailers, such as Macy’s, GuitarCenter and JC Penney. In the central entrance area, where the ATM is strategically located as well, was a large Christmas themed set-up where a fake Santa Claus was taking pictures with young children. To the left from there is the food court area, which has several options for a mid-shopping trip meal like Chic-Fil-A, Auntie Annie’s and Pancho Villa Express. I sat down at the Chi-Fil-A as I was early and bought myself an early lunch- a Deluxe Chicken Sandwich with a water. I asked the employee what was being set up in the food court. It appeared to be a pirate ship- possibly for some sort of kid’s play area. In the close vicinity as well a man was setting up what appeared to be a stage around a brand-new SUV. I assumed this was for a car raffle. The employee replied that there always events in the mall and that she wasn’t quite sure what was being set up. From what it sounds like, there is never a shortage of events in Spotsylvania Mall.

At 11:00, I walked into GuitarCenter, which had just opened. Despite it just having opened, there were already a few customers and an employee received me graciously at the door. The walls of the store are occupied by hundreds of guitars and basses. There are three levels- the lowest one is within reach and is occupied by cheaper guitars in the price range of $150-400, the middle is barely within reach and has more expensive merchandise and the top wall racks have the priciest and rarest guitars and basses (some upwards of $2,000). I jokingly asked if anyone had ever dropped one and the man replied that someone indeed had. I asked if that individual had gotten fired and he responded, “No, it was all good. Everyone makes mistakes.” I then walked around the store, checking out the drums and percussion section, the acoustic guitar section (which is in a wooden, humidified room) and the synthesizer section. Then I grabbed a guitar and noodled around on it using one of the nicer amps. The employees were very friendly and allowed me to try as many guitars as I wanted and even supplied me with a pick. The customer service at GuitarCenter really is phenomenal. I asked where their merchandise was from and how it was delivered and they informed me that their instruments are delivered via truck from all over. Hard rock music played from the store speakers but it wasn’t too loud. Overall a very positive experience.

Next, I headed to Macy’s. On the way there I passed several of my classmates and the Christmas themed area in the center of the mall, where a young child was posing on Santa’s lap. The Macy’s was several stories high, with each story having different sections denoted to different things. In the men’s area there were sweaters, shirts, pants, jackets and underwear as well as hats and other accessories. On top of this, there were suits, blazers and other dress clothing as well as a section with men’s cologne. The women’s section was pretty much the same except with women’s clothing, except I noticed a much greater diversity in fashion options. The perfume section for the women was larger as well and encompassed more skin-care and beauty products too. The entire store was already set for the holidays, with Christmas decorations everywhere. However, this wasn’t unlike the rest of the mall’s retail spaces (although GuitarCenter had no decorations). I observed a few purchases; mainly older white patrons buying clothing. The employees at Macy’s were not nearly as friendly or personable as the GuitarCenter folks were, however.

Lastly I headed into JC Penney, which was fairly busy like Macy’s. The store was filled with mainly older white people, just like the rest of the mall. I saw one African American family with a few small children. The JC Penney had mainly men’s clothing and the back was designated for bedding and kitchen supplies. The store was also decorated for the holidays. I noticed that several of the employees were not that friendly and didn’t seem too happy about me walking around taking notes. As far as their sales strategy go, there are discounted racks that are especially labeled. Here you can actually find pretty good deals, such as a pair of khaki pants for $10. However, I didn’t feel like buying anything right at that moment.

After JC Penney, I walked around the mall for a little while longer, observing several elderly patrons and a few young moms with their whiny children standing in line for Santa. Most people appeared to just be browsing or casually shopping. Considering it was right before noon on a Friday, the place felt pretty busy. I can only imagine how much business picks up a little later in the day when kids are out of school. Overall, I would say that I would visit the mall if I had a specific thing to buy or if I wanted to try a guitar at the GuitarCenter. However, I don’t really like malls from the get-go, so I didn’t feel a particularly strong connection to the Spotsylvania Mall.

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Nov 16 2014

Fieldwork: The Mall!

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It was cold and sunny at 11 on Friday when I visited the mall (Spotsylvania Towne Centre) to observe. This mall is sprawling, with a Costco attached to one jutting end, a relatively new outdoor shopping center off another and other businesses located throughout the parking lot, such as restaurants, hotels and a movie theater-bowling alley-bar complex. Almost all merchandise arrives here by commercial delivery truck. Customers as well as employees arrive by vehicle, either personal or public. I parked around back and entered through one of the many main mall entrances. The façade sports a faux-natural look, with stamped concrete in neutral colors and “stone” pillars. Inside, this particular corner of the mall is relatively dark and uninhabited when compared to the rest of the mall. Lens Crafters and the eye doctor next door offer the only sign of life. They are surrounded by more “shops” that seem similarly out of place: a closed “Sheriff’s Sub Station” (is it a Sheriff’s office? Or a sub shop?), a hole-in-the-wall post office, and an H&R Block. Two entire corner shops (that used to be fast food paces) are boarded up with signage directing you to the new food court, while across the hall another entire shop sits empty. The entrance to JC Penny’s introduces busier spaces, many of which are already decorated for Christmas. (All of the department stores and the mall itself are decorated for the holidays, while most of the individual stores are not just yet.) That said, “busy” is a very relative term in the mall – it takes hundreds of people to make any area of the mall seem busy, due to the sheer size of the space. A large area of comfortable seating arranged on a sectional rug can be found in front of each department store entrance, as well as throughout the main corridor of the mall. The seating area by JC Penny’s was populated by several senior men, and a lone senior woman, all presumably waiting on shoppers. JC Penny shoppers included several senior white couples, a few young white couples with small children, a few older white couples that appeared to be grandparents with children, an Indian family of several women and man and a child, a white couple that appeared to be boyfriend and girlfriend and a black couple of males that appeared to be father and son. Most shoppers (a term I use loosely at the mall) present at this time were white but there was also a large variety of other ethnicities. As far as I could tell, every last person I saw was somewhere in the middle class. There may have been a slight spectrum, but for the most part, nobody appeared to be extremely poor or extremely rich. Of course, these classes may have been present and it may not have been evident to me. I walked through JC Penny’s which was brightly lit and fully decorated for Christmas with white lights and a strict color scheme of red, white and silver. Through a short walk, I saw two stations clearly labeled “Customer Service”, both manned by two employees, each busy with a customer. I left through another door which brought me out by Buzzy’s Play Park, which I believe is the busiest place in the entire mall. A free indoor play park is not the worst idea for rainy days, if you are a stay-at-home mom, but they tend to gross me out. It was packed. Just down the hall is a little platform of “rides” that kids can play on for fifty cents to a dollar. It was less busy, with just one mom willing to fork out the quarters at that moment, and her son had the run of the place. These little play areas are located by many of the children’s shops, such as Build-A-Bear Workshop and Kids’ Footlocker. Kids Footlocker was extremely sparse and clean looking, with brightly colored sneakers lining the walls and two employees wearing their trademark referee shirts, but no customers. There are a lot of shoe and jewelry stores at the mall, most of which were empty when I passed by. Down the hall from Kid’s Footlocker was an entire store selling nothing but Crocs, and another shoe store called Journeys, both empty. The (adult) Footlocker was staffed with three employees and had two separate groups of shoppers. A young black man browsed while a young white couple rang up a transaction at the register. The vast majority of people I saw at the mall were loitering, sitting, waiting, and walking. Those I did see “shopping” were usually browsing and may or may not have actually made purchases. I did note another purchase being finalized, at a kiosk of Christmas trinkets, to a woman holding a screaming baby. It was kind of uncomfortable. In Macy’s I observed similar Christmas decorations and shoppers as JC Penny’s. I noted couple of ladies who may have been Amish (I’m not sure if it’s worse to be vague or wrong here) shopping, as well as a Muslim lady and more grandparents with kids and single people of varying backgrounds.

Overall, the mall is full of non-shopping, middle-class people. Given how little money appears to actually be going around, I’m surprised that it is possible to man and power and heat and cool and clean that massive building and all the stores in it and still provide anyone a profit.

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Nov 16 2014

Spotsylvania Fieldwork Post

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I arrived to Spotsylvania mall at 1115 am on Friday November 14th. It was a chilly day of 41 degrees but it was quite sunny without a cloud in the sky. The main mode of transportation for consumers was cars. The parking lot was packed and large. The transportation for retail goods and employees are cars and trucks, as well. The mall is far away from any houses so therefore many people can not walk to the mall. Some may take a bus, but the majority drive cars. The shoppers I noticed were very diverse in age. There was of course the white old lady mall walkers getting their exercise in when I arrived. I noticed there were a lot of kids at the mall with their parents. I found this interesting because they looked old enough to be in school but they were at the mall instead. The food court was filled with families enjoying lunch on a budget during their shopping trip. There was a diverse group of people in the food court: African American families, elderly white men, young white single men and women. The shopping patterns included people window shopping, going in the stores and buying things and then taking a break at the food court with their families. The stores in the mall is too long to list, but it’s a standard mall with major department stores on the outside and smaller stores in the middle. The employees that I noticed were all relatively young white people, except for the food court.The food court employees were mostly minorities. I think this is interesting and important to point the differences in employees when it comes to fast food and then when it comes to a sports store or a store in the main part of the mall. Fast food restaurants target people who need the money without considering the harsh working conditions they’re about to be put in.Some interesting selling patterns in this mall is they have kiosks in the middle isles selling random things, like calenders. I almost bought a pug calender that I saw there, so clearly this selling pattern works. The merchandise is basically any item you can think of. They even have a seen on tv store.My connection with this mall is I enjoy the cheese steak restaurant in the food court, so when I’m having a bad day I sometimes come to the food court and eat cheese fries and a cheese steak. The only unusual thing I noticed on this trip was the amount of kids on a school day with their parents. My overall analysis was it was really crowded at the mall on this Friday. With mostly families shopping and elderly people waking around, because most people are at school or working during this time of the day.  Its also interesting to note that most of the people were white at this mall, when in comparison with wal mart it was mostly minorities. So there’s definitely a class difference between the mall and wal mart. Also important is the fact that it was mothers and their children at the mall and not fathers, because we still have the family dynamic of moms doing the shopping while dads make the money.

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Nov 16 2014

Spotsylvania Mall Fieldwork Post

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As I arrived at the Spotsylvania Mall in the Towne Center to do my last fieldwork post, I made a few observations. At 11:15 am, on a chilly Friday morning, around 40°, there seemed to be a plenitude of cars in the parking lot which left me looking for the closest parking spot I could find. This problem in comparison to Downtown Fredericksburg and Walmart did not exist. With Downtown Fredericksburg, everyone knows parking is limited so I knew that I would have to park and walk, and with Walmart, I got a close parking spot to the store. Although there were a lot of cars in the parking lot, there was little vehicle traffic when I arrived and there was also little foot traffic outside of the mall. There was also a Fred bus outside the mall providing rides to potential customers. Even though I didn’t see any, semi-trucks are where the stores in the mall get their products. As with Downtown Fredericksburg and Walmart, the Spotsylvania Mall has consumer goods, food, and personal items, although it varies a little bit. Walmart only had one spot for customers to eat, McDonalds, and Downtown has too many to count, whereas the mall has about six or so. These places are also located inside of the mall, whereas Downtown they are all their own buildings. But, as with Walmart, every demographic was in the mall, mainly middle aged white folks and younger African Americans.

The first shop that I wandered into in the mall was a quaint little shop called “The Virginia Diner Shoppe”. This store reminded me a lot of Papagallos from Downtown Fredericksburg. As I entered the store, the employee, who was an older white male, spoke to me; he was very friendly and personable and asked how I was. As a perused, I noticed this store was mainly food items that are produced and packaged from all over Virginia. These items were candles, peanuts, honey, jam, syrup, candy and sauces. There were also collegiate sport team items and NFL merchandise. They also sold tervis’s! The Virginia Diner Shoppe used small price tickets, put on the bottom of the item, to display the cost.

The second store that I wandered into was JC Penney. This is a large chain store that is nationwide. As I walked through the opening, I noticed that it was fairly busy, from what I could tell, most of the customers were middle aged white folks. Another observation I made was, not only did price tags display necessary information, but there were price signs that displayed prices for specials that were currently being held. The closer to the back of the store I got, the more African Americans I saw. I was disappointed with this JC Penney, however, because this one only sold men’s apparel. This was not displayed anywhere. Other than men’s clothes being sold, the back of the store was reserved for Holiday items, kitchen items and bedding. The employees in JC Penney were rude, however, because many of them looked at me but only one of them said “hi”. This is when I left and wandered into my third store.

The third store I chose to look in was Charlotte Russe. Charlotte Russe is a US chain store that targets pre-teens to mid-twenty girls. The shoppers in Charlotte Russe, when I was in there, were younger and of all demographics. Charlotte Russe, like JC Penney used price tags and price plates. What was different about Charlotte Russe from Downtown, Walmart and JC Penney was that all of the newer items were in the front of the store and clearance was in the back. Charlotte Russe was also unorganized, just like Walmart. Again, like JC Penney, no employees spoke.

As I wandered out of Charlotte Russe and walked around trying to find Professor Moon, it gave me a chance to do some observations of the mall itself. There were kiosks in the middle section of the mall; the only ones that had customers from what I noticed were the Verizon and AT&T kiosks. Since it is the Holiday season, Santa was in located in the dead center of the mall. He was a little busy taking pictures but not how it is when December rolls around. I walked down to the food court, because by this time it was 11:45 am, so I was expecting there to be a lot of people eating and lines at the restaurants, but there were not; not many people were eating at all. Walking back up the mall, near where I entered, I noticed lots of foot traffic. There were couples, kids who should have been at school and middle aged adults, of all demographics walking around.

I really have no connection or disconnection with the mall. My overall analysis is that, like with Downtown Fredericksburg, it appeals to all senses. There are many restaurants, clothes stores and consumer goods stores that everyone can hopefully find what they are looking for. And, if you have a Costco card, you can even do your bulk shopping because Costco is part of the mall.

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Nov 14 2014

Spotsylvania Mall Fieldwork Post

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My friend and I visited the Spotsylvania Towne Center on Friday November 14th around 11:20am. We walked around the mall for about 25 minutes. It was sunny, but about 40 degrees so it was chilly. Similar to Wal-Mart, I do not think that the weather had a huge affect on the amount of people that visited because all the stores were indoors (unlike the Downtown retail space). The type of transportation that consumers use to get to the mall would be their cars, or public transportation like The Fred. Transportation for employees would also be the same, their cars or public transportation. Although I did not see any, retail goods would be delivered to the mall by delivery trucks, similar to Wal-Mart.

This retail space is made up of multiple chain retail stores. It is a big space that consists of clothing stores, fast food restaurants, kiosks, and many more. While visiting the mall there were many different types of people. I saw many older couples, mothers with children, and young adults. I assume that since I visited during normal work hours that there were less middle-aged parents. However, since it is getting close to the holidays I also think that many of these people were (possibly) Christmas shopping. There were also people who were just “people watching” on the benches or collecting donations at the entrance of the mall.

The first store that I went into was Belk. I actually entered in through that entrance instead of the main entrance. This store reminded me of a Macy’s, JC Penny’s or even a larger version of Kohl’s. It sold clothing for men, women, and children along with shoes, accessories, make- up and jewelry. The employees of this store were mostly middle-aged women. They were extremely friendly and personable. The second store that I visited was Footlocker. This store sold all different brands of athletic sneakers, socks and even some clothing. The employees of this store were young adults possibly in their 20’s. They were all dressed in athletic wear and similar to the employees in Belk they were very friendly and asked if we needed any assistance as soon as we walked in. The third store that I went into was New York and Company. I was not very familiar with this store at first but after walking through I observed that they sold clothing that was similar to business attire. They also sold some shoes, accessories and jewelry along with other casual clothing items. I only saw one, woman employee working the register and did not see any working the floor.

One of the most important observations that I made when I first walked into the mall was the amount of Christmas or holiday decorations that filled all parts of the mall. The hallways of the mall along with the individual stores had garland hanging up along with red bows, ribbons and lights. There were also many advertisements for Christmas sales in multiple stores that I walked by. The windows of the stores had huge red posters that said “SALE” or “Buy 2 get one free.” I saw this to be common in a lot of the retail stores. Besides the different individual retail stores and fast food restaurants there were also kiosk stands throughout the mall selling anything from shoes to scarves to jewelry to cell phones. I think a person could find almost anything in the mall, in terms of clothing. The clothing merchandise ranges from outerwear to formal attire to clothes for infants. There are also various toy stores and electronic stores that are popular around the holidays.

My connection with this retail space is that it contains so many chain stores that are common no matter what area you are from. Even in terms of fast food, this retail space contains stores that are so familiar to Americans. Although I do not visit this space a lot, I think that the variety of stores that it has makes it very convenient for someone to find what they are looking for. I think one of the main reasons why I don’t visit the mall that much is because it can be very crowded and the traffic can often be heavy around that area. One disconnection that I noticed when I was visiting was that some of the stores I had never heard of or was not familiar with. For example, Belk, is one store that I am somewhat familiar with since coming to school in Virginia. Belk’s slogan is “Modern Southern Style,” so it is a store that I had not heard of since I am from New York. Although I did not notice anything unusual, I did walk by the area of the mall that was set up for pictures with Santa. This is something that I would not have seen if I had come to the mall weeks earlier. I also noticed that there was a stage set up near the food court where a radio station looked like they were setting up with a mascot. Overall, I think that the time of year that you go to the mall has an influence on the types of people and the selling patterns of the different stores. As the holiday season approaches, there will be more and more people going to the mall and there will also be many advertisements for sales. Compared to Wal-Mart and Downtown Fredericksburg, I think that this is most similar to Wal-Mart in that it attracts all types of people and is meant to be an efficient experience instead of the casual atmosphere that the outdoor downtown space portrays.

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Nov 06 2014

Walmart Fieldwork Post

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I apologize about how late this post is… I really have no excuse to be honest.

On Friday, October 25th, I got a ride to the Walmart in Central Park from Ashton and her roommate. We departed from campus at around 11:00 A.M. from outside of Pollard on College Avenue and arrived at our destination some fifteen minutes later at 11:15 A.M. The weather was pretty normal; fair conditions. It was mildly cloudy and around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The location of the Walmart we visited is in Central Park and can be found on 1800 Carl D Silver Parkway. Once we arrived at the store, Ashton and I split up and I strolled around the maze of merchandise to take notes.

As it is a giant chain retailer, retail items are delivered by trucks to the grocery side of the building, where they are unloaded into the warehouse. The store is divided into a grocery area (essentially a small supermarket within the Walmart), a clothing section, a technology section (which includes a wall of huge flat screen TV’s),  a toy section, a bedding/furniture section, a hunting section, a toiletries section and many other miscellaneous aisle filled with merchandise such as automotive care, shoes and sporting. What struck me is that you can even buy fish there. Like, you can buy pet fish at a Walmart. The thought of that was quite surreal. In front of the registers in the front of the store, there is a pharmacy, a bank, a McDonald’s, a small arcade area, an eyeglass store and a nail salon. Walmart truly is like a mini-mall in itself. I spent about ten minutes perusing the “Outdoors” section and was shocked that alongside BB-guns, paintballs and slingshots, Walmart actually sells real ammunition. You could potentially buy your milk and cereal and then meander over and buy yourself some buckshot ammo for a shotgun. Again, like with the fishes, a surreal experience for me.

I asked an employee a few questions about transportation and how many employees worked at the Walmart. She seemed quite suspicious of me and wasn’t particularly friendly. This is a big difference in my eyes from the employees of a big corporate retailer such as Walmart and those that work in local, non-chain stores like The Oldetowne Butcher. The employee that I spoke with there was very friendly and went out of her way to help me. I essentially felt like I was doing something wrong by just walking around Walmart and was only met by critical or suspicious looks by the employees.

While she wasn’t particularly personable, the employee I spoke with did answer my questions. Walmart workers arrive either by bus or by car. There is a bus stop nearby which many people seem to take. I asked her if anyone bikes or walks to work and she said no, not to her knowledge. The giant parking lot in front of the store offers plenty of room for both customers and employees to find adequate parking, even at peak hours. She also told me that around 400 people work at that particular Walmart. By looking around, I found that most of them are Hispanic.

The shoppers at Walmart couldn’t be more diverse. While I saw mainly lower class consumers, there were people of all ages, ethnicities and economic statures. I saw college students, young professionals (although it was an odd hour- maybe on lunch break?), old citizens and families among. I did also see somewhat sketchy-looking people such as a man whose entire face and head was covered in tattoos. All in all, there were many different types of people there. This is because Walmart is simply so convenient- you can knock out grocery shopping and shopping for electronics in one go. Furthermore, the prices are so cheap that it is hard to shy away. The store is always busy, even in times of poor weather, although many people may strategically come in the day before a storm to stock up on groceries and essentials as well.

The sheer amount of merchandise is mind-blowing. You can seemingly buy anything there. This calls for selling patterns and sales strategies such as putting discounted goods in bins in the center of the aisles. The bins have giant letters spelling “Low Price” on them. Seasonal products can also be found in prime foot traffic flow areas such as the center of the large aisles. As it was right before Halloween when we visited, Halloween decorations and a plethora of different candy options were up at the front of the store. This helps set the stage for the season- even if you’re there to buy something else, you’ll see the Halloween decorations and feel compelled to buy some. What struck me is that so many of the employees just had a annoyed and gloomy demeanor. It really seemed like many of the employees simply didn’t want to be there. This affects the selling patterns because the employees aren’t very personable or aggressive salespeople, although they probably don’t have to be.

Throughout my walk around the store, I bumped into Prudence, Shannon, Professor Moon and Liz & Erin. It was kind of funny seeing everyone doing their own thing in different sections of Walmart. At around noon, I then headed to the McDonald’s and bought lunch and then promptly saw Ashton gesturing that we were leaving. Then we departed Walmart. Overall, I do not feel connected to the retail space that is Walmart and actually really dislike going there despite its convenience. This is because I much prefer a more intimate and personal consumer environment that might be offered in a small local store.

Professor Moon, I am very sorry about this being so late. I have fallen behind on a few of the blog posts but am making an effort to get back on track. Hopefully you’ll still award me some credit for this fieldwork blog post.

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Oct 30 2014

#EveryDayShouldFeelThisGood, If You Buy Our Tote

I am not a purse girl. My wristlet is years old and falling apart, and it’s only lasted this long because I prefer to slide my student ID into my phone case and eliminate carrying anything extra. It’s a little inconvenient, even though I do own a fairly pricey Longchamp purse. My grandparents noticed that my every day items (cell phone, keys, wallet, etc.) were always misplaced, and took it upon themselves to fix it. My grandfather discovered that we both liked Vineyard Vines products, and gave me the Vineyard Vines Classic Whale Tote for Christmas last year.

The bag comes in a variety of patterns, with more novelty designs available for $105. The most reliable places to buy them are Vineyard Vines stores, which are most prominent in Massachusetts. However, they can be found online in places such as eBay. According to Google Shopping, however, they can only be purchased through Vineyard Vines. My grandfather is older, and opted to go the easiest route of purchasing from their official site for $95.

Every time a purchase is made from the retailer directly, one of the classic whale bumper stickers is included in the package. This is a great method of brand promotion, and makes customers feel like their purchase is “special.” It also makes up for the fact that a nearly perfectly plain canvas tote bag costs approximately $100. L.L. Bean’s rival bag, the Boat and Tote, is the most comparable bag on the market, and comes in various sizes at less than half the cost. Admittedly, the VV designs are a bit more fun and feminine, and each Vineyard tote has a light blue gingham insert with a zippered compartment and three deep pockets to hold keys and cell phones. The Boat and Tote, while it has a lifetime, no-questions-asked warranty, is merely a large canvas hole.

Vineyard Vines was founded in 1998 by brothers Shep and Ian, who are so passionate and confident in their products that they publish reviews directly onto the site. The Classic Whale Tote earned a 5/5, with 5 reviews. Buzzwords like “classy, convenient, sturdy,” are bulleted at the top of paragraph long reviews, with notable usages ranging from “office/computer” to “beach/yoga.” And to keep up with their growing college demographic, Shep and Ian have remodeled VV a bit to fit social media. They run an active tumblr page, and are quick to “favorite” or “reblog” their fan posts. They’ve also jumped on the hashtag trend, creating #EverydayShouldFeelThisGood or #EDSFTG. I was upset by this, because I’ve always considered Shep and Ian as leaders of their industry. However, this could also be a marketing “defensive” tool, as several lesser known “prep” brands have tried to imitate the original canvas tote, insert included. In fact, Salmon Cove, a brand I had never heard of before, asked lifestyle blogger The College Prepster to review their version. One of the most recent comments on her post was the the insert looked “exactly like Vineyard Vines.”

I chose to post about this tote bag because it was not something I would have purchased for myself on a college budget. However, since acquiring it, I’ve taken it to both class and the beach. The worst that’s happened to it is a stain, which would wash out if I bothered to try cleaning it. Mine has the most “basic” design, making it versatile enough to match any casual outfit. If I were to purchase another bag, I would likely spring for the Americana themed one, despite the fact that it is no longer 4th of July season.

For those looking for a reasonably sized bag that is fashionable and well organized, I highly recommend the Classic Whale Tote. While it may not have the backing of L.L. Bean, the inside pockets and design beat the Boat and Tote… or at least in my opinion. After having my own Classic Whale, and growing up with a Boat and Tote in my family, I would never go back to L.L. Bean’s bag unless I needed a very large size.


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