What Store Has The Best “Experience?”

We were reading a NYT article, “800 Very Unsquare Feet” about this “Free City” store in a Malibu strip mall. It sounds neat, selling custom tepees, bikes, and original tshirts. The store also gives away free orange juice and oranges.

Store owner and conceptualizer Nina Garduno says, “It’s about the experience. I’m interested in having someone walk out of Free City and having had an experience. That’s what matters. They could buy a cheaper bicycle or T-shirt anywhere.”

That got us thinking. What real-world store gives you the most satisfying experience? Makes you feel good when you walk out the door into the world?

We like the candy shops in Chinatown. All the goods are in their clear plastic wall bins and there’s a tiny plate with samples sitting in front of every single one of those bins You can go around and sample sample sample while tingtongy music plays in the background, it’s ever so much fun. — BEN POPKEN


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  1. NeoteriX says:

    I’m sure it’s not the intent, but “tingtongy music” rubs me as being slightly offensive…

  2. bluegus32 says:

    NeoteriX: not everything needs to be offensive. Jeez, that is the problem with people in this country. We are too damned sensitive. Grow some thicker skin for God’s sakes.

    And before you get all pissy about how insensitive I am, let me tell you that I’m a Polish, Jewish lawyer (I am not making this up.) I’ve heard every offensive joke there is and I consider them funny. Grow up.

    On an alternate note, and to keep on topic, I find Costco to be a heartwarming experience. All those free food samples. Yummy. Course, filling my stomach is the second best way to please me.

  3. homerjay says:

    I wish I had a Costco near me. I miss them. Now I have BJ’s which I still like a lot, but they’re no Costco.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with your other point, bluegus.

  4. maggie says:

    Stores that give me a satisfying experience: Anthropologie. The stores smell DIVINE and I just want to move it as they have little dining areas, little living rooms, huge changing rooms sort of the size of many bedrooms, boudoir areas with masses of sweet smelling goods (with testers), and then I guess there is merchandise everywhere too but I never take much of that home. Just the sweet smell….

  5. acutusnothus says:

    The spousal unit voices high praise for Aveda stores; I cotton to the Hy-Vee grocery store on 135th in Olathe, KS. At both joints customer service is stellar, the product selection and availability spot on, and pricing is competitive.

  6. HawkWolf says:

    I had the best retail experience of my life at a t-mobile store down at the mall. I think it was because the person selling me a phone was the store manager and not some kid trying to make weekend pot money.

    The sales person seemed to want to make me happy by getting me what I wanted, which was a reliable and cheap phone without nuts features, and just seemed to make things nice and easy.

    My best continuing experience? Whole Foods. I dunno why, I just like whole foods. Their store makes me want to buy stuff, and not in a ‘must… buy..’ way. In a sort of, wow, this seems like it’ll be totally cool! way. The staff at the one near me are always helpful too, despite the endless stream of huppies.

  7. flyover says:

    Ben Sherman in downtown SF serves beer, wine, and I think gin to shoppers. Me like. I’ve been to other boutiques that offer champagne, fruit, cookies, etc to tired & hungry shoppers.

    I second anthropologie & whole foods though both can be overwhelming sometimes & both make me wish I was at least a thousandaire.

    I’ve always liked that salons do little extras like water, tea, sparkling wine, fruit etc. in addition to the scalp massages with cuts/colors and the like.

  8. Phil says:

    Double your money NeoteriX is *not* Asian in any way shape or form. See the recent Dilbert Blog post on this subject.

    $1 dollar gets you $2.

  9. Frank Grimes says:

    Hong Kong Market, Bellaire, Houston, TX. Where else can you see 80 year old Chinese woman taking blue crabs out of the bin and bashing their asses to death on the floor. The produce is amazing and there has to be 5000 different types of fish sauce. Unlike the place the Times mentions it will still be open in a few years.

  10. NeoteriX says:

    Where can I pick up my $2? =D

    Hey guys, I don’t mean to start a fight. I’ve been a longtime lurker and respect Consumerist’s cause–things like the reporting on the Nazi T-shirts is very enlightening about the site’s level of progressiveness. That said, when I see something like this, I just wish to inform.

    When I see expressions like “tingy tong” (chingy chang chong, you know the drill) when referring to Asian things (music, language, names, etc.) it gives me an uneasy feeling. What is “tingy tong” anyway? What it is, is a nonsensical word that is symbolic of the stereotype that Asian Americans face–because words like that have no origin in any Asian language. It was created back in the day as a mockery of the unique nature and sounds of Asian languages and it served to deny the beauty and significance of our native languages.

    My aunt plays the Vietnamese version of such an instrument, and one of my friends plays a Chinese version–the yangqin as she informed me. This music and these instruments have beautiful names and to substitute a lack of knowledge of these names with some nonsensical stereotypical gibberish is at the heart of what’s problematic. It would be just as effective and respectful to say, “pleasant Asian music” if one didn’t know the specific names.

    Growing up, I faced my share of playground kids pulling their eyes slanted and saying gibberish to me like “chingy chang chong.” While I do not wish to compare englighted Consumerists with ignorant first graders, the message is still the same: Your culture is so exotic that it doesn’t deserve a basic respect.

    The thing is, there’s a difference between this and the plethora of Jewish, Polish, and Lawyer jokes–this wasn’t a ‘joke’. A joke recognizes the offensiveness of itself. The fact that the author used the phrase shows implicit and unrecognized assumptions and stereotypes. These assumptions can be threatening in our society – they are the unrecognized ones, the ones that people can shrug off, which, even though (and especially because they are) subtle, show a serious and fundamental misunderstanding.

    In any case, hopefully I’ve made my point, putting this tangent to rest. I’d also like to mention again, I have nothing but respect for Consumerist and its sophisticated readership. If anyone has any questions or would like to further a non-antagonistic dialogue about this, I’d love to entertain it.

    I’ll leave you guys with something I found googling “ting tongy” — it’s some teenager’s inane post on Myspace that I think illustrates my point: “When i heard the li’l Jim Ting Tongy North Korean guy set off that nuclear bomb, it made me think of you…”

    Today’s youth is sad, isn’t it? =D

  11. PrinceTuesday says:

    It’s callled onomatopoeia and it is the same thing as calling banjo-heavy country music twangy. “Ting” is a legitimate word that means “high-pitched sound.” The use of “ting tong” to describe what the music sounded like in the candy shop made the experience familiar to anyone who has every heard such music. To call what Ben used to describe the music as “nonsensical stereotypical gibberish” is not accurate, because it made perfect sense to just about everyone who read it.

    Also, because Ben did not announce “this ting-tong part is a joke” doesn’t mean it was not a joke. Most jokes would not be quite as funny if everytime they were told, they started with “I want to tell you a joke so we can all laugh at the offensiveness of it.”

    It is certainly a fact that we all need to be sensitive to others, but at some point, people do need to lighten up. The phrase “ting tong” was presented in a nuetral way and was used to immediately familiarize the reader with the poster’s surroundings, not to convince the reader that the shop owner’s culture is not worth respecting.

    PS: I enjoy the experience I get when I shop at Newbury Comics (stores are in New England). Always smells good. Lots of toys to play with. Tons of CDs & DVDs. The staff is very helpful, but they leave you alone if you want.

  12. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    Neo: It’s called an onomatopoeia. It’s a word that describes what the music sounds like, often used by people who have no knowledge of the terminology of the genre. Similarly, old people use “bumpa-bumpa” to describe rap, and I use “bowchicka-bow-bow” to describe seventies techno. It is not the equivalent, as you seem to have inferred, of “effing chink”.

    One thing that gets easily forgotten in this knee-jerk age of quote-unquote-sensitivity is that the same word(s) can mean different things, used differently. Just because someone *might* use “ting-tong” to insult your grandmother doesn’t mean that Ben did it. I’m sorry if other people have at some time used this or similar terms to insult your friends or family, but that’s no excuse for bringing everyone here down about it.

    Ahem. My votes: Cost Plus World Market, because they have such mad random crap and never ever harrass me, even if I don’t buy anything. Costco, because they treat their employees well and it shows in how the employees treat the customers. And this grocery store in Cambridge, MA I went to a couple times last time I was there — Harvest something — it was a total hippy co-op and oh my gods was it cool. If I could have torn it up by the foundations and brought it home, I totally would have.

  13. FMF says:

    Any bicycle shop with road bikes priced over $2,000 each. It doesn’t hurt to dream, does it? ;-)

  14. schvitzatura says:

    Please, Ben, don’t go all Michael Ricards or Mel Gibson on us now!

    “ethereal music”…any better?

  15. kerry says:

    I’ll throw in a vote for John Fluevog, both online and in-store. They know their product, they’ll repair just about anything and they’re extremely friendly at my local store. Also, I feel like kind of a tool for this, but I love shopping at Coach. They know how to treat a customer and I always leave with a smile on my face. I should mention that their phone sales staff is top-notch, too. It’s been my experience that stores selling luxury goods tend to be pretty nice to everybody who walks in the door, as they’ve learned that you can’t tell the size of a person’s checking account based on how they’re dressed.

  16. MeOhMy says:

    Wegman’s supermarkets and REI rank highly on my list. There is also a Turkish importer near me that sells very cool things and the people that work there greet you by name when you come back.

  17. acambras says:

    Heh, heh — schvitzatura, do we really need links to know about the whole Michael Richards thing (or Mel, for that matter). All we’ve been hearing about this week is Kramer’s Apology du Jour, and Britney’s hoo-hoo.

  18. bluegus32 says:

    NeoTeriX–thank you for a VERY intelligent post. And I am truly sorry that you suffered humiliation as a child. While I agree that lawyer jokes are not quite the same, Polish jokes and Jewish jokes most certainly are as equally offensive as the humiliation of which you speak. My point in the original bitchy post of mine was that we all need to grow thicker skins on this one. Do you know how Asians, Poles and Jews get the last laugh? We don’t sue. We don’t go to the ACLU. We simply strive to educate ourselves to the utmost and then we out-succeed all the friggin morons that called us stupid because of our origin. That is a far greater deterrent to that kind of hurtful behavior.

    So if you’re offended, just move on. Succeed. You’re clearly very well educated. Take the high road, leave all the offensive people in the dust, and then YOU laugh all the way to the bank.

    Finally, do you know the absolute best way to stop what you consider to be offensive behavior? Join in. Make fun of yourself and be better at doing it than anyone else Nothing takes the joy out of making fun of someone than having that person do a better job of it. Go check out Shakespear’s Cyrano de Bergerac for a phenomenal example of how this works. Steve Martin illustrated this point well in the movie adaption, “Roxanne.”

  19. I would have to say Saks Fifth Avenue.

    At least here in Denver.

    Not only besides great customer service, they do the refreshment thing as well. Plus I always leave with tons of free extras, such as samples, of stuff that’s not even out yet.

    They call me when the order is in. Gift wrap and mail it for me.

    They also send out invites to special functions and such.

  20. the chicken ranch. pahrump, nevada.

  21. stubar says:

    Trader Joes, all the way, especially as I’m usually there for massive quantities of cheap wine (and the occasional tub of pork bbq).

  22. zanngo says:

    I used to work at Whole Foods, and still love shopping there – just not at the one where I worked. :) Nothing personal, just too cramped compared with the newer ones I’ve gone to. I really like the way they style their stores, and it makes me want to poke around and see everything.

    I used to LOVE shopping at the Emporio Armani downtown (oh, I’m in San Francisco, btw.) Besides just being in a really cool building (an old bank – they still have the vault doors you have to pass through to see the various collections), I would go there every single Monday with a friend and we would try on the uber-expensive crap and be served martinis and shrimp cocktail and then leave without buying anything. Very gracious staff, too, and yummy lunch counter.

    Speaking of the lunch counter there, please indulge me in tolerating a little side-story that has nothing to do with anything. I used to work in a shop on Union Square which was family-owned, and a very priveleged family at that. One time the owner’s granddaughter was in the store waiting for a friend of the owner to come in and take her out to lunch. The friend arrives and asks where she wants to eat, to which she exclaimed, “Ooh! Armani has pizza!” Armani should be every child’s first thought for lunch, eh?