It can be a holiday saviour, a one-stop-shop for all your holiday gift-giving needs. But it can also turn into a living hell after you’ve been walking in circles for hours battling swelling crowds, aching feet and the urge to hip-check every dawdling slowpoke in sight.
[attach]3095[/attach]But malls are in the business of making your life easier, especially during frenetic high-volume shopping times like the holiday season.
In addition to offering specialized services, some of the city’s mega malls have gone high-tech in recent months, implementing a host of features that can make your shopping experience less angst-ridden.
[color=DarkOrange]Downloadable mobile applications[/color]
Many of the city’s big shopping centres are on Facebook and Twitter, meaning you can get up-to-date information about store promotions.
If you’re not into Facebook or Twitter, you can get real-time updates from the malls that have developed apps that can be downloaded to your iPhone or Blackberry. The information can help you plan your trip beforehand, or quickly access information as you start your shopping.
Yorkdale Shopping Centre, for instance, recently launched its “App of Luxury” for iPhones and Blackberries and provides realtime updates on promotions and an interactive mall directory.
The Dufferin Mall has also created an app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that features, among other things, an interactive mall map and a handy “What are you looking for?” search feature that helps you find what you are looking for without searching each individual store.
Those of us who drive know what a drag finding a parking space can be at a large shopping centre, a nuisance that’s amplified during holiday shopping season. You can, of course, go early or late and do your best to avoid driving in circles for 20 minutes. If you shop at peak times like most people, though, you’ll still have to contend with crowded lots.
Yorkdale’s downloadable app has a parking feature that provides stats on parking availability that’s updated every 15 minutes, says mall general manager Anthony Casalanguida.
He recommends checking out the app before leaving home to get a sense of where the parking is.
When you get to the mall, there are also traffic signs at the entrance to the parking lot telling you how many spots are available and where, updated every two minutes. When in doubt, go up, he suggests, as people tend to forget about parking being available on the upper decks.
Valet parking, available at Yorkdale for $8 a day, is an option if you’re time-crunched and have no problems shelling out the cash.
If you’re not the type to plan your visit beforehand, check out the guest services kiosks at the mall for information on store promos, mall maps, stroller rentals, and coat check services. Some malls also have lockers available for coats and extra parcels.
[color=DarkOrange]Moms and kids[/color]
For those brave enough to go holiday shopping with their kids, knowing where the food court and washrooms are is paramount. The big trend in the city’s malls are family washrooms, which enable moms to nurse, change baby and even heat up food in microwaves in a private room. Many malls rent strollers for a small fee as well.
Lineups for Santa may be unavoidable, especially when Santa is available only during certain times. To take the sting away from standing in line for Santa, Fairview Mall is running a daily contest until December 24 where the 40th person in the Santa line wins a $40 gift card and a gift package.
This year, Yorkdale tried something new by offering pre-booked appointments with Santa on selected dates in November. Customers signed-up online for a $10 fee which they got back when they ordered their Santa photo package.
Last but not least, remember that every one else in the mall is in the same boat as you, trying to check all the boxes on their holiday shopping list and get in and out as fast as can be. A little patience and sense of humour when waiting in lineups and negotiating those crowds can go a long way. And when all else fails, remember you can finish your shopping trip off by finding a nice resto in the mall and rewarding yourself with dinner and a big glass of vino.