The Seventh Circle of Hell! Or shopping…

I had to go to Westfield shopping centre in Shepherds Bush yesterday. I’ve been there 3 times since it opened, and my last memory of the place is of a mass of heaving people, and getting lost, and having to be assisted out because my back was bad and I couldn’t walk far.

I wasn’t looking forward to going, but I had something to take back to Debenhams, and a couple of things to collect, so I chose Monday because I knew it’d be quiet. It was fairly quiet actually, and I downloaded a map of the shops layout before I went this time. Not that it was much use, the format is for a poster size, and my printer only does A4, so the print was so small I needed two pairs of glasses to even begin to read it.

I don’t know how they’ve managed it, but its the only shopping centre I’ve ever been to that makes you feel like Alice when she falls down that tunnel – you go in, funneled directly through what’s called the ‘Designer Village’ (think Bahrain and acres of marble and expensive shops) and eventually end up at the more reasonably priced parts of the centre.  The signage for useful things like EXIT and TOILETS is woefully inadequate, and the escalators dotted about are practically invisible unless you’re standing in the right spot. After I left Debenhams (itself no mean feat, I couldn’t find the way out) I thought I knew where to go next. Well, I swear, I began to think I’d wandered into a modern version of Hogwarts, where things change places all the time, but I did eventually make it to Bodyshop and get what I wanted. I’d intended to go to a couple of other shops, but I’d had enough, decided to leave because I already felt as I’d been on an orienteering exercise involving a 5 mile hike for some hours. Leaving, though, was much easier thought than done – it actually took 25 minutes, believe it or not – me and another couple were wandering around looking for an exit that was actually open, and when you found one, it was only by accident. I came out of there feeling hugely relieved and grateful, as if  I’d escaped Dante’s Inferno  – I’d begun to believe I’d be stuck in there till Christmas.

Thank the lord for the internet – I’ve never liked shopping much, and never been keen on large shopping malls, but have used many over the years. But this new breed of shopping centre is a whole different ball game, and one I’d prefer never to have to experience again, well not without a compass or a satnav, a survival skills booklet, climbing tackle and a duvet in case I’m there all night.  If it weren’t for the fact that my neice has made the same remarks, I’d have thought it was cos I was getting old that I find the place so difficult, but it appears I am not alone.

I’m utterly convinced that Westfield is in some parallel universe or other dimension – once in, its elastic and impenetrable, and leaving is difficult. The 7th Circle of Hell is definitely what I’d call it…

16 Responses

  1. mick1970 says:

    ha ha………..i went to the trafford centre once and i will never ever in my lifetime will i put myself to go through a shopping centre again,i only go to supermarkets on rare occassions they wind me up as well…………..i use the internet for everything[well the wife does}………i buy most of my clothes from charity shops

  2. VegVamp says:

    Priceless Miriam! Made me laugh out loud! And quite agree, shopping is my idea of Hell too! ;)

  3. gertie says:

    Made me shudder…really claustrophobic…I was gasping as you finally got out Miriam…shan’t go there !!! well written gal ughugughhh! :-)

  4. Miriam says:

    That’s interesting you should pick up on that, Gertie, the claustophobic thing – I was thinking about it in the last half hour, before seeing your comment, and realised that the sensation I had in there was that of being trapped, specially when trying to get out, so you picked up on something I hadn’t realised I was feeling. If I’d had a rope, I’d have abseiled over the edge down to the escalator I could see on the floor below…

  5. gibbon says:

    I loved that Miriam, I have a diffferent aproch, I have to travel to a supermarket as there is nothing in the village in the way of a weeks shop, I do not make a list I look around the fridge and frezer and make up my mind what I need, then make a mental note, my methord is in and out in the shortest time, than as they continualy move things about to make you look and hopefully buy, all I look for is an asistent ,and I say were is so and so, I then get led to what I want, then I look for another one and do the same for the next thing and then when they say that is in iel sand so I say were is that, and get led agin, I get through in not time, cleaver, not realy, I normaly get home with about three quartes of what I went for,,

  6. Star says:

    Hi Miriam…………………….guess you have us to blame for your shopping experience

    “The Westfield Group is an Australian shopping centre group undertaking ownership, development, design, construction, funds/asset management, property management, leasing, and marketing activities. The multinational company is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange and has interests in and operates one of the world’s largest shopping centre portfolios with investment interests in 124 shopping centres across Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Brazil, encompassing around 25,000 retail outlets and total assets under management in excess of A$63 billion.”

    So yes, we have these big shopping centres. I think it is just a case that you, as you say, dont know where you are going in them. I remember being in Kula Lumpa in a shopping centre ( which of course I didn’t know) they had 8 floors …now that was a place to get lost in. I have never found ours to be claustophobic as they have very high roofs and big open spaces.

    It is funny I went to the body shop also yesterday, in my local centre, which they are at present enlarging, to make it the biggest on in the southern hemisphere. Don’t know why, people only have so much many to spend. I expect I will have to find my way around the new bit.

    Well I must be off………I have a date with another shopping centre (I have 2 in a 5 klm radius) I must add I only do “nice” shopping there…food shopping gets done at my local supermarket….in and out as soon as possible….or I send the old man…lol

    • Miriam says:

      I did know its an Australian company, Star. Actually I didn’t say it was claustrophobic, that was Gertie’s remark, but I did have that impatient trapped sense when trying to get out. Having encountered many shopping centres over the years, including Thurrock and Bluewater, Westfield is still different – I’m pretty sure it’s been cleverly designed to keep people inside it for the longest possible time – while they’re stumbling about, they will pass more shops and go in them, so its laid out in that manner quite deliberately. Bluewater is absolutely huge, much bigger than Westfield, but you can pick up a map on the way in, and despite being there for a whole day when it first opened, we never once ‘got lost’ or didn’t know where anything was – so Westfield’s layout just has to be deliberate.

  7. Snapdragon66 says:

    Our local shopping centre in Tunbridge Wells is quite small and easily negotiable as is the one at Eastbourne. I did venture to Blue Water several years ago, not alone I must add, and I didn’t like that at all way too many shops and many all selling the same goods. Apart from charity shops I haven’t bought many clothes from shops and can never be bothered to try things on, most stuff comes from catalogues when they are having their sales. Now big garden centres are different(except at this time of year when full or xmas stuff) I can spend ages browsing around them no problem.

  8. Hayley says:

    I think your account of a large shopping centre will resonate with many M! I haven’t been to Westfield but do make the journey to Bluewater probably 3 times a year; being loosely based on a two storey triangle I can just about cope with that. Give me a day out and about in the countryside visiting nurseries any day with a fish and chip tea at the coast. Blows the cobwebs away :)

  9. Brings back memories, Miriam! Haven’t been to a big shopping centre in years. I seem to have no sense of direction and can never find my way out of such a place once I’m in. Not related to shopping but to sense of direction – in 1988 we moved from Plymouth to Brighton. OH drove the removal van and I drove the car. I followed him. We found our flat and unloaded and then had to take the van to the most local depot to return it – it was miles away, somewhere beginning with C – probably Croydon! We got to a very very large roundabout – one of those with a park in the middle that you can’t see the other side of. OH went first but by the time I got going he’d disappeared completely! I went round and round and didn’t dare take a turning in case it was the wrong one.

    Eventually I decided to get back to the junction where I entered the roundabout and parked there and just waited. I knew he’d come back for me. And he did. After carrying on and finding the depot, he came back knowing I would be there! He drove back to Brighton and I’ve never driven since!!

    Thumbs up for internet shopping :D

  10. shedsue says:

    Hate shopping centers yuk yuk..I prefer to go into York (when I have to) and wander in and out of “proper shops” ;) and dont get me started on super markets

  11. Beanstew says:

    Read this, and shuddered when I stopped giggling, and then thought, “What effect are the people who plan these places, really after?” I imagine they are trying to part us all from as much money as possible, as quickly as possible. You have obviously discovered one of their methods, which is to reduce the individual to such a state of abject despair and desperation, that you will gladly hand over whatever you have left, just to be let out. But its a short-sighted policy. I am shopping more and more online as a many are doing – and how are the retailers going to pay their exhorbitant rents then?

  12. Miriam says:

    I responded to Star above, but should really have put it as a separate comment. I’m certain that the confusing layout and lack of signage at Westfield is quite deliberate in order to keep the punters in there for longer. It is not like any other shopping centre I’ve been to, including Bluewater (see above). Far from making me buy more, it made me buy less – I didn’t bother to try to find the other two shops I wanted, knowing I’d need more energy just for finding a way out, so they lost money. But then, personality wise, I know I’m more of a tiger than a lamb, so maybe it works on other people, no idea.

  13. Tiggy says:

    I used to love shopping… when shops were in streets. I hate the fact that shopping malls are so hot, especially if I am dressed for winter… the heat makes me feel ill. Now I do most of my shopping on the internet !

  14. Beanstew says:

    I do worry about what will happen to all the people who are employed in shops, but shopping on the internet is definitely the way I am going. No hassles about parking, or saving up for parking fees, no carrying of bags, no tired feet, no having to return to the shop two streets away who have a better version of what I’m looking for at a cheaper price. Doing it all with a cup of coffee in my hand, much more quickly from my own pc – and having it delivered promptly by a pleasant delivery service – way to go, way to go.

  15. Miriam says:

    I’m afraid that two years running, I’ve done my Christmas shopping on the internet, haven’t been anywhere special to get anything at all – except for having to go Debenhams to take those slippers back.
    One thing though – it’s not always cheaper on the internet than in store. I went to Bodyshop at Westfield because their eyeshadows were half price in store, but on line, I could only find them a third off and 3.50 delivery charge. Yet their eyeshadow brush, which was ten pounds in store, I got online for a total cost of £5.49. On other occasions, I’ve been to a store for whatever reason, and noticed that the item I’ve just ordered online is more expensive than the offer currently in store. Equally, the other way around – I looked at men’s shirts in BHS last Friday, when they had their 20% off deal, saw one that wasn’t included that I liked. I didn’t buy and the next day I ordered some things from there online – and the shirt I saw that wasn’t included was half price on the internet. On this occasion, a geat result, but sometimes stuff might be cheaper in store.
    But it has to be said, you can’t beat actually seeing and touching the product before buying – I certainly wouldn’t order a sofa over the internet without having sat on it first, so for some things, we do need to be able to access them physically.

    And another thing – Tesco’s clothing. You might assume, as I did, that everything they sell in various stores (they don’t all carry the same stuff) would be available on line. It isn’t. I saw a bag in a store in Bracknell back in late August, didn’t buy it thinking I’d get it online or in my superstore. Not only wasn’t it in my superstore, it wasn’t online either, along with several other things I’d seen in Bracknell, which strikes me as odd. Tesco’s need to sort out their online selling I think – its also irritating that you can’t order pillows and groceries in the same order online, they’re different areas, but you are able to buy pillows and milk in store.

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