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Funny Stuff We Found at the Mall, or The Power of Nice

By Piper Bayard

In early March, 85-yr-old Marilyn Hagerty was plucked from obscurity and catapulted to internet fame. Why? She was nice. Being nice should not be so remarkable, but she was nice about a restaurant that is commonly panned by “food experts” as being unremarkable. The Olive Garden.

Ms. Hagerty writes for her local paper, the Grand Forks Herald in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Grand Forks just got an Olive Garden. Ms. Hagerty wrote the review. (Long-awaited Olive Garden receives warm welcome)

As a small town girl myself, I remember what a big deal it was to get a McDonald’s. An Olive Garden? Wow! Go ahead and laugh, but I know exactly why Ms. Hagerty was struck by the warmth of the ambiance and the variety of the menu. I understand why she wrote, “The place is impressive,” and, “All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks.”

Snarky food reviewers found Ms. Hagerty’s review to be provincial, and they started passing it around. Then, it went viral. Not because it was silly in any way, but because people responded to Ms. Hagerty’s sincere good will and complete lack of pretension.

The New York Times heard about Ms. Hagerty and flew her to New York City to review some fancy restaurants for them. Check out this positively darling woman’s journey here. The Eatbeat with Marilyn Hagerty

Since going viral on the internet is the only kind of viral I want to be infected with, I decided to write a review of my local mall to see if being nice would have the same effect for me that it did for Ms. Hagerty. Since my darling daughter, DD, and I had such fun finding things at Walgreens, I once more recruited her away from her books and her engineering interests to be my model. . . .

Once inside our first store, which is geared toward juniors, I am immediately taken back to my high school days by the pungent fragrance that calls to mind warm memories of sweaty socks in the girl’s locker room and the odor of fear that permeated the waiting area outside the principal’s office.

Even more comforting, my Southern blood delights to discover that the styles and fabrics draw from one of my favorite movies, Gone with the Wind, as a tribute to the impoverished Scarlett’s resourcefulness in using curtains for her gown. I could swear these expensive dresses were made from the beautiful printed flour sacks that Granny so carefully crafted into curtains for her kitchen windows, and they came  in three summer colors!

Who’d have thought we would find this kind of nostalgia in such a modern store? *deep sigh*

As we walk through the massive tribute to consumerism that is the Mall, we discover we can find everything we would ever need. I mean, a girl never knows when she will need a Wonder Woman bikini, right?

We find shoes, too, and even they make great use of Granny’s curtains, especially the one in the center.

And just in case we’re abducted by aliens and come back thinking we’re Tijuana hookers. . . .

All of this shopping makes us hungry, and we are not disappointed! The crowded ambience of the food court does nothing to detract from the classy generosity of the people around us. Why, someone even leaves us samples at our table.

All in all, our local mall is the biggest, most beautiful shopping center in our county.

Only one thing, though. You’d think with all of these clothes around, the models would find something to wear.

We tried.

What fun things do you find at your mall? When has being nice brought you unexpected returns?

All the best to all of you for finding something good in everything you see.

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51 thoughts on “ Funny Stuff We Found at the Mall, or The Power of Nice

  1. I am always pleased with Chic-Fil-A. When we go through a drive through with our dog in the car, they give her a doggy treat. When we go to the food court at the mall, I see the manager checking on their diners–are they pleased, do they need anything. When I was preggers or if I have the stroller with me, they carry my tray to a table for me. They’ve made me a pretty loyal.

    • Hi Cristin. I love it when I hear people talking about the kind deeds of others, particularly when they are talking about good customer service. That seems to be waning at a rapid rate. I’m not so surprised that it is Chic-Fil-A you’re talking about, though. I worked in a mall while I was in college back in the 80s, and I remember Chic-Fil-A as being not only tasty, but very customer oriented. I’m so glad they helped you out. I’ve so been there done that with the kids, and it’s wonderful when people lend a hand. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience.

  2. on ,
    EllieAnn said:


    HAhaha! This is so funny, I laughed about the samples on the table and the shirt for the model. Hehe, a cheery way to start the day.
    Nice does go a long way! It’s not every day that I’ll remember someone who was smart or clever, but if someone was nice . . . I’ll remember them for a looooong time.

  3. on ,
    Annie said:


    I grew up in a VERY small (and somewhat isolated) town. The closest thing we had to a McDonald’s was Jiffy Burger. I remember the first time I ate at an Arby’s. I thought it was so amazing. I love Ms. Hagerty!

    I also loved the shirt for the model…looks like he needs a XXXL.

    • Isn’t she wonderful?

      I remember my first Arby’s, too. I was in college. A date took me there for dinner. I’d never been to a fast food place that didn’t have burgers and fries. That seemed very uptown to me. Lol.

      As for the model, that was one of the bigger shirts in that place. My daughter is 5’10” and a size 8, and she felt like there was nothing there for her in that store. Crazy, huh? Thanks for stopping by.

      • on ,
        Annie said:


        I know exactly what store that is. I’m fairly small (4/6) and not at all chesty and I barely fit in the larges! I never shop there. The clothes are made for dolls, not people. 🙂

        • I don’t know how they stay in business, myself, because there are just not that many people in America who are that small.

  4. Love the story about Ms. Hagerty. That is just awesome. I grew up in a small town, too, and I remember when Subway came in. It was so exciting to have something different instead of regular fast food.

    That said, ugh on the teen fashions. I sincerely dread my daughter growing up, lol.

    • Our first “fast food” was Pizza Hut. I’m not sure if that qualifies, but it was our only food chain, and our only pizza except for really cheap frozen pizza at the grocery store. A sandwich store? Unheard of. On the other hand, we had some amazing real food to eat, and no worries about chemicals or hormones. Good to see you, Stacy.

  5. Love this story! I dont hang so much at the Mall now but I do remember in my youth it had all we could need to entertainment – food, movies, clothes, book…a good time with girlfriends and that new “beau”…Malls hold memories for many, and for some its the only spot in a small town to find comfort and not feel so lonely. You could go alone and spend the day or with a group.

    • “It had all we could need for entertainment…” It’s so true!

      I remember my first trip to a mall. I was fifteen years old. A few of us from Rainbow Girls drove two hours to a city in the Texas panhandle to see their new mall. I had my first daiquiri (virgin, of course) and walked into a store that sold things from the Far East – incense, bells, and little statues of “pagan gods.” Even more shocking was the fact that there was a dark pub playing music that wasn’t country/western – Stevie Nicks, to be exact. And they served real alcohol! My own town was hard core bible belt territory, and that was quite something.

      I also have countless fun memories from outings there with the kids when they were little. Play places, Easter Bunny pictures, and train rides. Now, though, I go to the mall, and the vendors in the center aisles hock their wares like street children in front of European monuments. I hate having to fend them off. DD and I had fun, but it’s not the laid back experience it used to be. I hate to see it change.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Donna. 🙂

      • Love your memories too! How colorful, Piper! I so remember being a smoker and you could smoke in the Mall back in the 80s! We would go up to the 2nd floor of Burger King, get our Whopper with Onion Rings and smoke…then go cry in St. Elmo’s Fire…or get in trouble for sneaking in underage to Purple Rain! Then head down to Claire’s Boutique to buy some really gaudy earrings and Madonna bracelets! This was at Crossgates Mall in Albany, NY. I still kept all my tickets stubs…when movies were only $2!

        • Lol. I remember that, too. I went to movies all the time. Now, I have sticker shock for anything but the $5 early morning show. Thanks so much for sharing your fun memories. 🙂

  6. I really feel for your daughter, lol 🙂

    Piper, you’re not going to get me to model things in our hotel room at DFW, are you 🙂

    • Great idea, Donna! But not in the hotel room at DFW. Out at the ranch! … And don’t bother wasting sympathy on my daughter. She got a nice, not flour sack dress out of the deal. 🙂

  7. Hahaha the leftovers on the table really got me! I heard about Marilyn – I really need to read that Olive Garden review!

    Just this past Friday, someone at work gave me a hug for getting something done that they thought they were going to have to do (but in actuality it was my responsibility) – that was such a nice surprise!

    • Lol. Kristen and I joke that we want to be Pres/Vice Pres so we can sell books. Thanks for stopping by, David.

  8. In Meridan Mall there used to be a Unicorn Shop. All they sold was unicorn paraphenalia. My then girlfriend loved the place. I should have been packing my bags at that point but I went in. The item that warmed her heart was a three inch crystal unicorn on a piece of slate. She loved it and gushed how it would just make her collection. I left $50 lighter. Oh, she loved me. She tossed me six months later. Damn unicorn.

    • I don’t think I’ve seen the Unicorn Shop, but I’m sure my daughter would have loved it when she was about ten. Thanks for sharing your experience, Tom. Sorry things didn’t work out. Too bad you didn’t get the unicorn back. It would have made a “thoughtful” present for the next one. 🙂

      • I was lucky to get out alive. Met one of her exes and found out that the life expectancy of a relationship was 6 mos. And I avoided the numerous calls for help (rides to the airport etc) I’m happy and she’s got a part in a WIP

  9. Forgot every other thought in my noggin when I saw DFW…

    DFWCon? You’re going to be at the conference, too? Woot!

    I love these adventures you take with your daughter.

    I had my granddaughter on Monday. Movie, then an expensive stroll around Southlake Town Square. It was her birthday. We’d already ordered custom Converse on-line (too cool!). She was in Claire’s with a belt in hand and looking at rings for her thumb.

    “Syd,” I say. “Why don’t we look at what Brighton has? I’d rather spend a few more bucks and get you a nice ring.” So, I paid for the belt and we moved on to Brighton.

    Yeah. Well. The only thing they had suitable for her ten-year-old fingers was a trilogy of rings. MasterCard Swipe and Sign.

    “Glowie,” she says. “I wish I’d worn shorts. It’s getting hot.” Off to Justice we go.

    She was, however, a good sport about posing in Starbucks with my blue monkey that’s making a virtual walk from Texas to Toronto.

    Like I said, it was an expensive day with Syd. I wouldn’t trade it.

    • DFWCon is my “writer spawning ground.” That’s where I met Kristen and became a guinea pig. “Bweep, bweep.” I’m so glad I’ll get to meet you there. 🙂

      I know what you mean about those days being expensive, but they are definitely priceless. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience, Gloria.

  10. I lived for six years on the Central Coast of California. The area is very focused on no growth, because everybody who hears about the area wants to live there. The first few months I lived there were like an extended vacation – then reality started to seep in. By the time California was in my rear view mirror for the last time, I couldn’t wait to shake the dust of the Golden State off my heels. Still I made many friends that I still hang out with on facebook. Their most recent dilemma? Olive Garden is coming!! Had to post this on facebook for them!

    • Oh, how funny! I know that’s really going to shake up their world. Of course, if they don’t frequent the restaurant, it won’t stay there. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience, Jane.

  11. OMG love the review. I just about died reading. I’ve been to the mall lately with hubby and we both had the same comments about Grandma’s curtains being everywhere – from the shirts, to the dresses, to the SHOES!!!
    WAHAHAHAH!! Well done – here’s to going viral!

    • Lol. We seriously got flour in those sacks, and I knew kids with dresses made from them. Not uncommon at all, and they were much nicer styles because no one was trying to look like they were wearing a flour sack. Good to see you, Natalie.

  12. I grew up in a fairly small town in the south. I remember as a kid & teenager when it came to “nice” restaurants there were two options: Applebee’s or Olive Garden. Not gonna lie, still have a soft spot for Applebee’s.

    • Yep. I still have a soft spot for Pizza Hut. It was a “nice” date place. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience Brenna. Good to see you.

  13. When I was growing up, we had to drive 30 minutes to even get to the one shabby mall we had. When a new one opened up, we were literally drooling as we entered and saw its shiny floors and new shops. These days, living just outside Houston, I can spit and hit a mall or shopping center in just about every direction. The one we go to today is delightful only because it has a LEGO store which my boys love, a Starbucks which I like, a Naturalizer which is the only place nearby with good narrow shoes, and The Gap which actually carries pants that fit me. I do enjoy the samples to be had at places like Teavana, Chick-fil-A, and that Japanese place I always forget the name of.

    Great post! Your daughter is such a trooper to do the research for us readers.

    • I accidentally went to the grand opening of our local mall. It was far more upscale twelve years ago. Anyway, my friend and I had thought it opened the week before. We entered through Nordstroms when they opened the door at 10 a.m., and the employees were all lined up clapping for us as we walked in. Newspapers were there with cameras, and so were the news channels. The other thing I remember from that day is that my daughter was the first casualty. Whoever designed the kids play area had never had kids. Just a small cut on the knee. She was fine.

      I still like the mall north of us, but that formerly upscale mall to the south is now filled with vendors between the stores, and I have to fend them off like beggars and thieves in front of the Parthenon.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Julie. And DD was a trooper, made more so by the fact that a new dress out of the deal.

  14. I read an article about Marilyn Hagerty written by her son in the Wall Street Journal a days ago. To Marilyn’s credit, she didn’t “give a crap” (I think I am quoting accurately) what the snarky bloggers said about her. She was too busy drafting her next article for her local paper. Apparently she writes a few columns every week. I adore her confident but kind way of viewing the world and I love how productive she has remained even halfway into her 9th decade.

  15. I didn’t know about Ms. Hagerty, but the story is lovely, Piper!
    I don’t spend much time at any of our local malls, but when I go I definitely grab a cup of coffee from Starbucks and browse through shoe stores (yes, I have an addiction to both, coffee and high heels).

    • So tell me honestly, Angela. Do you like shoes like the ones in the pictures? I’m just wondering if there’s anyone on the planet who can pull them off. 🙂

  16. That Ms. Hagerty, she’s a doll and I’d love to have lunch with her at Olive Garden! Actually, that’s my dad’s favorite place, maybe I should set them up?

    Your mall is great. Who knew granny’s curtains were making a comeback? Didn’t shabby chic die out awhile ago? Guess it’s back, but for clothes.

    Stop covering up that hunky male model! He needs to be in one of Jillian Dodd’s MANday posts.

    Where to next? I love these adventures with you and your daughter…

    • Lol. He is an attractive young man, for sure, but I try not to comment on men young enough to be my … much younger brothers … yeah, that’s it … in front of DD. That would just be creepy of me. Where to next? Hmmm. I’ll give that some thought, and DD a bribe. 🙂 Anything in particular you’d like us to cover?

      Good to see you, Tameri. Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Piper, don’t you know the food left over on the food court tables is the complimentary seasoning?..;) I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, so we weren’t lacking an abundance of restaurants. However, when I went to college in Atchison, KS, that was a total culture shock. The movie theater had two screens and there was only one restaurant that maybe qualified as “nice”. When we finally got a super Walmart, my junior year, I thought we were all going to have a heart attack…LOL

    • No way! I was born near KC. I’ll bet we’re related. And as for that two screen movie theater? It was so exciting when my town got one. I was in middle school, and I saw Star Wars there. We were so uptown.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experiences, Paige. Good to see you.

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