Mall Fail

August 3, 2009 — 1 Comment

Image: violator3Image: violator3

A few days ago I posted ‘That’s okay…’ about some positive learning experiences I had with some friends at the mall last week.

Let me share a few things that were ‘teachable moments’ because of what they teach us to avoid.  Don’t worry, names have been changed to protect the innocent and avoid some kind of libel charge:

Understanding your environment is incredibly important:

I haven’t been able to find Bottle Caps anywhere.  You know: those sweet-tart kind of candies that have a little fizz in them?  We can’t get them where I live, so while we were at the mall, the four of us dropped into Childhood Obesity R Us (a candy shack).  But right next to the candy shack (which, by the way, did have Bottle Caps… at an incredible premium) was Carcinogen Crossing (a tobacco shop).  That may not have been a problem… except that the smell of the tobacco shop was incredibly overwhelming… it morphed with the sweets smell of the candy shack and created some kind of nasty, hanging malodorous funk that wasn’t at all pleasant.  The candy shack wasn’t doing very much business, and I can’t help but wonder if it had something to do with its neighbor.   Who are the candy people trying to reach?  Tobacco smokers?  Or would vying for a spot near the Lego store have been a better bet?

What does that have to do with churchy stuff?  Oftentimes it’s tempting to do something that worked very well elsewhere… in some other environment.  But ‘plugging’ that program/idea/method into where we live just won’t be effective because of where we’re situated. We’re trying to reach lego-store kind of people next to a tobacco shop… maybe we should try to do something to meet the needs of the people around us in their own context.

A few months ago, a friend of mine posted this link–it’s a good example of the need to understand your environment in a ministry setting.

Know your environment.


There was a certain item we were hoping to get.  An item so in demand many people want one, but not so currently ‘have to have it’ that anyone should be sold out.  Checking was done about which stores should have this item in stock.  One didn’t.  Another of the same chain didn’t.  A third store did, but was unable to provide the right kind of service… so a purchase was made to get the item all the others were supposed to have and a walk commenced to one of those other stores to get the rest of the process taken care of. (I’m being purposefully ambiguous, sorry for how awkward that paragraph was).

It was a lot of work and frustration for something pretty easy—especially when you understand the money was going to be spent on this item… and it was going to bolster the sales of one store or another.  If people would have just done what they said they would, a very happy customer would have been had.  Instead, they were left with a customer who wasn’t so much ‘happy’ as ‘finally taken care of’.

I wonder what we do that could use some simplifying; what we do that is overly frustrating and inconvenient for a reason that made sense on paper or in theory but has no practical benefit…

Just Be Who You Are:

One of the stores we stepped into was kind of like the Apple Store’s socially awkward distant cousin.  In fact, it was meant to compete with an ‘Apple Store’ kind of draw.  But something happened: the culture of the parent company and the culture of this particular store didn’t match.  Somehow in the push to ‘be like the other guys’ this brand, in my own uneducated opinion, was suffering.  The people were only focused on selling a product, not representing company, brand, or offering experience.

There’s nothing wrong with competing.  There’s not anything wrong with seeing how your competition is doing something and besting them at it.  But trouble comes when we sacrifice who we are in order to compete with some other ‘growing concern.’  It’s very doubtful the ‘growing concern’ grew by laying identity on the altar of success.

So, who wants to go to the mall with me this weekend?

Jeremiah Gomez

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I am on a journey...enjoying the adventure of learning to live a life that isn't my own.

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