World’s Best Mall Shopper


And I have an engraved trophy to prove it.

by Cherri Ellis

When you grow up in a matriarchal family of three girls and no boys, shopping is sort of what you do. My mother had outrageously good taste on middle class means. My father worked nights at Standard Register running a printing press. When I had to tell my class for a project what my dad’s profession was he told me the fancy word for it was “lithographer.” I thought that sounded sufficient enough to roll out for show and tell, but I knew my mom was the class of their act. She may have been the wife of a third–shift printer, but as a result of good genetics and careful shopping, she looked like a movie star.
Her daughters developed three distinct shopping styles.
To the oldest daughter Marlena, shopping became combination therapy, hobby and drug of choice. One year our family tried to put a price limit on Christmas gifts, but it didn’t work because for what the average person would spend on a sweater, Marlena would have gotten an entire outfit including shoes and wallet. She would show it to you, but it has been wrapped since June.
Middle child Robin, however, never really reached her stride as a long distance marathon shopper. At one point in the ‘80s she hated to shop so much that she didn’t have anything dressy to wear out at night. I wanted her to meet me, so I called a cab and put a dress in the back seat and had the driver wait while she changed and then bring her to a club. (I could afford such luxury, having raked in a big $200 that week in La Comedia’s dinner theater production of “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”)
But youngest daughter me—I turned out to be the actual, official World’s Best Mall Shopper. I have a trophy. It has my name engraved on it. It was bestowed upon me at the Riverchase Galleria in 1992 by Greg Bass and Courtney Haden for a promotion on Classic Rock 99. I was seven months pregnant, and I evidently had too much time on my hands because I sent in a short essay for a radio contest explaining why I should be crowned “Best Mall Shopper.” I woke up one day to the sound of it being read on the air over my clock radio, and—just like that—my adventure began.
A few weeks later we finalists were scheduled to meet at the mall. We were given a list of four categories like “Something that reminds you of Birmingham,” “Something Blue,” etc, and then unleashed on the Galleria with a time limit and $200 each. We presented our purchases to a panel of judges on a stage in food court, and I won. Perhaps you saw my picture splashed all over the papers the next day. I was the pregnant woman wearing horizontal stripes and an “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” crown on my head. How proud I feel.
They then sent me on an all expenses paid trip to the International Competition in West Edmonton, Canada, a city which boasts nothing but snow and the World’s Largest Shopping Mall. (It has a full–sized water park and a golf course inside of it.) I was put up in the adjacent fantasy hotel where every room had its own theme. Narrowly escaping the “Trucker’s Room” where the bed was in the back of a king cab, I was given the “Greek Revival Room,” which had a round bathtub in the middle of it and a lot of vines painted on the walls.
The next day I ended up losing to the New Mexico contestant who I felt had blatantly sucked up to the judges the night before at the mixer. I did get to keep my $500 worth of purchases, which included an amazing royal blue suede pencil skirt and matching jacket with some serious shoulder pads.   The ironic thing about the whole bizarre experience is that I ended up in morning drive at the very same radio station that sent me to shop Canada. As Cherri Mason of Classic Rock 99’s Mason and Dixon Morning Show, I shared the air with the late great Andy Spinosi and the lightning fast Richard Dixon. Morning Drive radio was a gift to me. Not only was it a slingshot professionally, but the bizarre hours allowed me to work at something I loved and simultaneously be a stay at home mom to my daughter as she grew from two to five years old. Sleep deprivation aside, those were delicious days. I didn’t know I was shopping for a career, but that’s what I brought home.
Sadly, my penchant for bargain hunting did not genetically pass on to my only child. If you ever need to hide from her in a store…stand by the sale rack. She will never find you.

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