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Call of the Mall

The Geography of Shopping


Paco Underhill (View Bio)
Hardcover: Simon & Schuster, 2004; Paperback: Touchstone, 2005.

Call of the Mall

"WHY WE BUY has become a modern masterpiece.... [In CALL OF THE MALL] a look at malls' geography is what Underhill promises and delivers." — BusinessWeek

"WHY WE BUY and CALL OF THE MALL are classics of modern retail ethnography." — Fast Company

"Underhill's most recent foray into the rich, potpourri-scented field of retail anthropology addresses such tough questions as Are we really interested in spending an entire book inside the mall? Why is mall architecture so ugly? and Exactly what is an Aqua Massage? Underhill's answers turn out to be fascinating (mostly), and when they aren't, they're boring in a sort of exquisitely bleak, existential way, just like the mall.... Only a retail specialist could be so attuned to the human condition." — The Atlantic Montlhy

"Underhill offers a blow-by-blow description of visiting 'a big air-conditioned vanilla box with all the action on the inside': a suburban mall. His sharp observations about routine details, from the strategic positioning of jewelry store counters to the way a Victoria's Secret window seems to tell men 'Hey, buddy, stay the hell out of here,' have an obvious appeal for anyone who has ever been manipulated by discreet mall psychology." — Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Underhill is a knowledgeable observer. CALL OF THE MALL is loaded with interesting nuggets about malls, mall life and design, and with the challenges facing retailers, who must engage an increasingly disaffected shopping audience.... CALL OF THE MALL offers first-rate insights with equal measures of humor and rage." — The Wall Street Journal

"This is what Paco [Underhill] is about: on the one hand, he understands the dynamics of commerce; on the other, he is transfixed by shopper psychology. It's the basis of his new book, engagingly titled CALL OF THE MALL, in which he takes the reader on a journey through the archetypal American mall, from motorway slip road all the way to the ladies' loo and back again. The tone, like the man himself, is confident, assertive, straightforward and occasionally unnerving. As a book, it reads itself; as a manifesto for a global shopping philosophy, it's fascinating." — The Times(London)

"The main man to have recently put shopping studies on our cultural map. The founder of multi-national consulting firm Envirosell, he published some nearly universal truths about consumers he'd collected from 20 years of anthropological field work, observing shoppers in their natural habitat and giving birth to a new science: the science of shopping. Underhill's new book, CALL OF THE MALL, applies his general observations on shoppers to the specific suburban locale of the shopping mall. An entire book spent in a mall sounds like enough to try anyone's patience, but Underhill's expertise and thorough understanding of the environment makes for an interesting read, even for those of us who prefer to avoid malls on aesthetic grounds." — Toronto Star

"THE CALL OF THE MALL is a delightful romp through one of America's most socially telling and economically important phenomena. The book establishes Paco Underhill, already one of our premier marketing gurus, as a heavyweight social commentator. I didn't know how little I knew about this centerpiece of our culture." — Tom Peters, author of IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE and RE–IMAGINING

"The book provides a great example of how 'this veritable anthropologist of consumerism' is able to glean penetrating insights on Americans' shopping culture by talking to customers where they spend so much of their leisure time. CALL OF THE MALL examines how Americans use the mall, what it means, why it works when it does, and why it sometimes doesn't." — Retail Merchandiser

"Studded with man versus shopping anecdotes." — Chicago Tribune

"Paco Underhill's CALL OF THE MALL is downright entertaining.... Underhill spends more time in mall than any teenager you know, and he's a lively guide." — Seattle Times/Seattle Post–Intelligencer

"Paco Underhill has a sense of humor. That's clear to anybody who reads his new book, CALL OF THE MALL, a lighthearted yet insightful audit of one of the pop culture icons of the past half century...he also has some serious cred when it comes to retailing. He has spent much of his life observing shoppers...he's an astute observer of retail trends. And that makes him an ideal guide for a tour of the cultural anthropology of the shopping mall." — Edmonton Journal

"Largely entertaining and often enlightening. Not only is this shopping expert conversant with malls worldwide, he is so accessible a writer and so perceptive about social change that his mall tour is often more interesting than the mall itself. CALL OF THE MALL is also far more varied than its subject — and less fatiguing.... Underhill guides us through the mall department by department, gender by gender, lure by lure. He enlivens his tour with conversation designed to help us identify with mall shoppers.... Convincing and methodical." — Boston Globe

"In WHY WE BUY, Underhill, founder of the consulting firm Envirosell, Inc., took a long, hard look at the American consumer. Now, in this equally eye-opening book, the retail anthropologist examines the other side of the shopper-retailer relationship. He takes us with him to the shopper's most popular habitat, the mall. A typical mall, Underhill tells us, is a cultural environment — but a badly designed one, as though it were put together without any real understanding of the people who would use it.... You might not think a book about shopping malls would be so vastly informative and entertaining, but this one is, and everyone who has ever set foot in a mall ought to read it." — Booklist (starred review)

"In between the standup comedy (at which Underhill is no slouch), he has the social scientist's uncanny ability to describe what is right under our noses with a lucidity that makes the mundane buying, selling, chowing down, hangout out positively riveting. The picture he leaves us with is surprisingly provocative.... [An] entertaining, unconventional survey." — Boston Globe

"In 1999, Paco Underhill published a charming book titled WHY WE BUY, all the more charming when you consider Underhill is a reformed academic. It was a book about how we shop and why we buy, which is the business of Underhill's research and consulting company.... Underhill has made a tidy business of watching shoppers the world over and discovering things, such as how they read signs and where they look first on a shelf. (Eye level, a little to the right.) We Americans have Underhill and Envirosell to blame if marketing has become better and we end up buying more. In his second book, CALL OF THE MALL, Underhill turns to the curiosity known as the enclosed shopping mall... Underhill's restless mind and keen eye glom onto all parts of the mall experience.... [A] wry look at today's shopping culture." — Detroit Free Press

"Breezy and conversational." — Seattle Weekly

"Breezy and brief." — The Houston Chronicle

"Bestselling 'retail anthropologist' Underhill talks readers through every aspect of malls, from the first glance at their ugly exteriors along the side of the road to the struggle to remember where the car's parked... Underhill clearly revels in mall culture, though he looks upon it with a sharp eye.... No detail is too small to escape his attention.... Some might ask how much detail shoppers really want about how stores entice them to buy, but any nagging doubts will be swept away by the engaging manner in which Underhill passes along the keen insights he's gained through years of retail consulting." — Publishers Weekly

"Behind Underhill's breezy, compelling style is an astounding amount for research.... Underhill lets his work speak for itself and trusts us to notice its worth. And we do. Even those who go to great lengths to avoid malls will find this a fascinating read." — USA Today

"Attention shoppers: This detail-laden, consumer-savvy guide explores what's right and wrong with America's 1,175 enclosed malls. Underhill, a retail anthropologist, dissects them from parking lots to display racks, finding enough tasty tidbits to stock a food court. Four stars." — People

"An entertaining narrative on how the mall became the center of the American community, despite its many flaws (like a lack of windows and lame food choices)." — St. Paul Pioneer Press

"A quite engaging if sometimes exhausting exploration of America's most notable (or notorious) contribution to shopping, the enclosed mall.... Underhill does a thorough and sometimes amusing survey of just about every aspect of the mall one could imagine." — Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

"A most amusing and unique view of mall culture. A fascinating look at its customers, retailers, and mall developers. Once again, Paco Underhill has broken new ground with his thought provoking insights. Well done." — John B. Menzer, Executive Vice President of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., President and CEO of Wal-Mart International

"A light-hearted yet insightful audit of one of the pop culture icons of the past half century.... [Underhill is] an astute observer of retail trends. And that makes him an ideal guide for a tour of the cultural anthropology of the shopping mall.... You many never look at malls the same way." — Ottawa Citizen

"[Underhill] takes apart — cinderblock by cinderblock — the phenomenon of the mall.... [He] avoids pretentious, academic discussions that might turn this into an industry-only tome and gets right out in the parking lot with the rest of us.... [He] bring[s] a fresh eye to the subject.... A book filled with the usual customer complaints would be as dull as being stuck in the food court, but he brings a little situation comedy sensibility to the topic by letting us eavesdrop on shopping trips with archetypal customers.... Clever." — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"[The book] makes for entertaining reading.... Mr. Underhill deserves credit for...raising the questions and for doing it with spunk." — New York Observer

"[An] entertaining, detail-laden expedition into the world of consumerism." — Business Wire

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