Responding to universal criticism about shutting down stores on Sundays in City Creek, Mormon leaders announced today a new “honor system” policy, to be enacted immediately.
“This is not some Etch-a-Sketch flip-flop,” said Elder LeGrand Widtsoe, spokesman for the Presiding Bishopric. “We are still keeping the Sabbath holy, but very much in our pragmatic Mormon fashion. No stores will be open for business as such, and no employees will be forced to skip Sunday school and/or sacrament meeting to man or woman the cash registers. Instead, doors will be thrown wide open, inviting and encouraging investigating customers to test and sample the merchandise.”
According to Brother Widtsoe, church leaders were inspired by the longtime Nordstrom practice of a no-questions-asked return policy. “We expect, of course, a run on prom dresses, running shoes and high-end lingerie, but the thinking of the Brethren is that in the long run we will be building a loyal customer base.”
Brother Widtsoe pointed to the tried-and-true marketing tool employed by supermarkets, where shoppers are presented with table after table of sample products, everything from meatless sausage to jalapeño cheese dip. “Studies have indicated that if you give free stuff to shoppers, they will open their wallets for a lot of other stuff, whether they need it or not.”
Economists say the new “Help Yourself” policy is also in line with the business plan known as Disruptive Innovation, the creatively destructive theory of capitalism developed by Mormon business professors. The church has famously applied disruptive innovation (or innovative disruption, depending on your taste in adjectives) to its media business, with disastrous results. Nevertheless, disruption is the watchword, and church leaders say the Sunday disruption at City Creek will be profitable, and a lot of fun at the same time.
“If you’ve ever seen the mayhem at bargain-basement stores when a ginormous sale is announced,” said Brother Widtsoe, “you get a feel for what innovative destruction looks like, at least in its early stages. But we are of the belief that our posted rules of conduct and behavior—no shouting, no smoking, no wardrobe malfunctions—will mitigate to a considerable degree the customers-gone-wild phenomenon.”
Many of the City Creek merchants we spoke to are of two minds about the church’s new Free Stuff on Sunday policy.
“Nothing wrong with letting customers try out your product,” said a purveyor of luxury footwear, who prefers to remain nameless. “Especially with ladies shoes—you got to let a gal see how the shoe fits, let her walk around a bit. Guys are not so fussy, and as long as you can shoehorn their fat foot into the shoe, usually you got a sale.
“I’m OK with the new policy, as long as folks have to stay in the mall. I’m not so sure the honor system works in the shoe department. Even if you let customers walk around the mall to test the footwear, you’re going to end up with the bowling-alley situation, where every shoe on the rack smells like warm cheese.”
Luxury shops like Tiffany, Rolex and Coach are openly defiant about Free Stuff Sunday, and risk being summoned to a bishops’ court and possible excommunication from the mall. “No way in hell are we keeping our wares out on the counter for these so-called test drives,” said the manager of one of the luxury shops. “Fortunately, if push comes to shove, we will lay out a lot of fake watches or bags or whatever straight from those street-corner vendors you see in Times Square.”
Should the disruptive innovation of Free Stuff Sunday prove to be insufficiently disruptive, the Brethren have a bold back-up plan for utilizing the empty stores. Church officials have been secretly consulting with feng shui specialists about energy flow and spatial dynamics in large, enclosed empty chambers.
A leaked copy of various proposals have come into our hands, and among the potential Sunday uses of the City Creek are the following: meditation, alternative healing, yoga, Zumba, arts & crafts, mall Frisbee, miniature golf, square dancing, clogging and nude volleyball. Also being contemplated is a variation of the popular Hunger Games.
“The interior layout is perfect for the archery competition,” said Brother Widtsoe, who, before hustling over to Mr. Mac for a sock giveaway, wanted to clarify a possibly harmful misunderstanding regarding two of the mall’s shops.
“Love Culture is not a unisex spa, and True Religion Brand Jeans is not giving the church a kickback.”
D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.