Being aware of the state of oneself is a very important criterion for a person to become successful, and if this awareness could be enlarged to cover the people around him/her, the organization she/he have interactions with and an even bigger situation, a person could have a panoramic knowledge of how the society works and how people to people, people to organization and organization to society relations are formed. Thus, to gain these knowledge, this field report decided to visit a shopping mall and observe how this organization and its people inside behave.
Choosing a mall to figure out how people behave has several advantages: first, it is a nice place that involves individuals from different classes and groups from distinct backgrounds that are favorable for diversifying the research; second, this organization provides a wholesome functional area with its activities ranging from dining to movie-watching that are instrumental in helping this report view how people behave in certain scenarios; and third, a shopping mall is a place that has its own norms and undertakes a unique role in the society, hence make it the best place to have an overview of people-organization relations and organization-society relations.
On choosing the place, this observation made its decision to take a mall called Reel in Shanghai, China as a sample which is located in the most busy district and has potentially quite a large volume of customers. Moreover, an afternoon near Christmas was picked to initiate the research since it was believed to be the best period of a day that people would like to come out and play. During that afternoon, this field visit was divided into two time slots, one was from 1pm to 2pm, and the other was from 4pm to 6pm, and why dividing the visit was because people and environment could change drastically in different moments.
With these preparations, this paper will be laid out in a meta-macro-meso-micro framework, which means it will go over what role does a shopping mall take in the natural ecosystems and society first, and probe into social norms related to the mall and its people through observation second. Finally, it will end its narration with findings from the mall’s organization culture and how people, especially, how this researcher “I” behave and emotions “I” have during people-to-people interactions. Apology is made here if “I” is frequently applied throughout the session, since this article is very “subjective”. More facts worth explaining is that I chose four spots in the mall to deploy my observation, they were: the entire mall, a coffee shop and a perfume store. Description and
Interpretation of Activities
Before delving into the role of the mall Reel in a meta view, it is important to know what a mall is. A shopping mall is usually conceived of a community center for people to consume and to have cultural and social exchanges (Feinberg, 1991). This is especially true for Shanghai, a place that accommodates tens of hundreds of malls that they almost become the “center of universe” for people to spend their spare times. For malls like Reel, their main goal is to make profits by selling goods, either in ways of selling real things or services, thus they are by no means eco-friendly (Cohen, 2017). According to NatureWorks (2019), there are three major roles in the ecosystem, producer, consumer and decomposer.
The first and third are energy and food generators, while the second makes a living from them. Reel is considered by the research to be a consumer, and this can be proved by observations from this research. For instance, as me and my friend walked into the mall, we were overwhelmed by the warm air that distinguished inside from the freezing outside. With closer attentions, we heard the low yet booming sound of the central-controlled air-conditioners from above. Another thing reminded me that this place could be a huge consumer was the cargoes carried along by several trucks pooled outside. Those two cases are representations of Reel to be an electricity waster and an air polluter. By consuming energies like water and electricity, it exchanges back a good shopping environment, superb service, quality food and daily supplies. What it consumed and what it offered are interconnected.
Besides providing guests with material benefits, Reel also assumes a social and cultural role. It has social norms related to it, which according to Zalta (2018) means that it has “informal and unwritten rules that govern behavior, and make up what’s seen as normal, acceptable and respectful”. Shopping in Reel is an evident behavior that people there were usually accompanied by people of close relations. For people in Shanghai, Reel is one of the most famous shopping house that provides them with luxuries and rarely-seen overseas products. Thus, in a broader social norm, or to say value, many people in Shanghai might judge Reel as a place that they dare not to go into, and only when it comes to anniversaries would they spend money there.
The view also explains my preconception about Reel that only the rich who dressed formally and those middle-aged with their families that were capable in wealth were Reel’s true target guests. This thought was soon proved to be one-sided, as I found the visibility of distinct social classes from high to low. As far as I observed during 1pm to 2pm, there were indeed “beautiful” people with shiny dresses shopping in Herme’s, but there were also white collars and student-like people who wore school uniforms eating at the lower ground floor for working lunches. Therefore, Reel to me is more like a convenient stop for people to relax than a rich-exclusive zone.
Reel had left me with more than one feeling. Again, upon entering the mall, a Christmas view was exposed to this researcher. A red carpet bridging the gate and the lobby could lead you to the center of the mall, which was decorated with a small wooden castle, wheelbarrows filled with gift boxes, Christmas trees and different kinds of lightening. Looking around, its whole interior design was finished with a theme of Christmas Redness. After browsing one floor after another, I found Reel was comprised of five floors, with each one catering to different services. For example, the first one mainly offered people with luxuries, the second less expensive clothes, the third and forth restaurants and cafes, and the fifth one a movie theater, a bookshop and several other designing and baking studios. Worth mentioning is that outside the mall and adjacent to it were a five star hotel and business offices. Apparently this was a luxurious and comprehensive function area that suffice multiple needs. What can be reflected from these clear arrangements and organizations is one of Reel’s culture, which is to always find the best and easiest for customers.
Malls like Reel always have their own codes of conduct. For example, there were people dressed in black who guarded every gate of this building and being in charge of opening doors for customers. While these professionals welcomed guests, as usually expected, they also served as security personnel that keep the mall safe from emergencies. This made it very different from other shops where there might be just one personnel holding his/her position at the forefront and burnt out by calls from different sections. In my opinion, this special attention to security also constitutes another one of Reel’s organization cultures. A safe and secure system is significant when, for example, suspicious activities are witnessed and guests are found to be unconscious due to health reasons. They respond to all forms of security situations in a behind-the-scene manner. As for other codes, some could be found through signs and warnings, for example, smoking was absolutely prohibited in the indoor area as there were signs every floor that pasted on the walls near the elevator handrails. All these codes and cultures left me with the impression that Reel is a strictly organized place, and I felt psychologically safe and “reduced the anxiety confronting ambiguity and uncertainty” (Edmondson, 2002).
These codes, for this research, were evident and easy to notice, however, there were hidden rules shared by the community without putting it on the table. During the visit to a coffee store inside the mall, a group of college-aged students were found to be pretty noisy. There were about ten of them that never stopped chatting, and the content they talked about could be heard even from the farthest corner, making people inside being unable to resist listening to them. With regard to this situation, I gave special notice to people in the cafe, especially people near them. Soon, a middle-aged women who sat and worked near them closed her computer and left.
The noise might not have a causal relationship with the woman’s decision to walk away, however, many people inside did look at them for numerous times with impatient faces as if to warn them to lower their voice. From this observation, this research do believe people have the rights to talk freely, but talking with a distracting voice is not a good choice and it is a hidden norm shared by everyone. Although these young people did not receive any form of demand from anyone to pay attention to their behavior, they were apparently not welcomed there. In my opinion, they did not acquire the ability of social-awareness, which means looking outward to recognize and understand others’ feelings and to “understand the social network of which it is a part and its ability to act in congruence with the protocol that governs that network” (Skolnick, 2008). Neither did they have self-awareness about their own state and behavior.
Later during the time slot from 4pm to 6pm, I conducted my research at the second target destination — an Armani perfume store. When I entered the store, I saw one shop assistant gave a look at me and stood still, not showing any attempt to introduce me trendy products, so I started to test products by my own. Intriguing was that, a moment later, even before a fine-dressed women with a Louis Vuitton bag entered the shop with a man (probably her husband), they were warmly addressed with smiles. Then, two assistants surrounded them, asking if they have any needs. Forming a stark contrast to my experience, this couple definitely stood out for me.
I heard the man there spoke with Shanghai dialect to his wife that the samples they browsed smell too strong, he did not like it and preferred to go eating dinner instead. Again, they were sent out with polite smiles. Seeing this, I felt quite irritated, but I controlled my anger without arguing against the assistants, partly because I was afraid and shy to do it, and that is one of my weaknesses. The other part of the reason was that, after serious consideration and inference, I thought what caused their behavior to neglect me might not be that I dressed like an “inferior” student comparing to that middle-aged couple, as this reason was too subjective as a way to interpret the phenomenon, but that the assistants knew the preference of young people to shop alone without too much bothering and the “fact” that young people who were exposed to an ocean of cosmetics information usually have clear shopping objectives in mind while older people lurking around deciding which to buy often have not, hence they made active recommendation to the couple. Having this idea in mind, I decided to talk to the assistance and see if they could treat me with warmth and kindness. And I started the conversation (in Chinese): Excuse me Mam, do you have the new product SI PASSIONE”?
They walked to me instantly: “Oh, of course, do you like to try it on”? Then they applied it on a testing card and introduced me this product and a couple of others, all in good manners. These might be insufficient to solve my puzzles, but I did have a better mood since then. What I did there, according to the correspondent inference theory, was to check the attitude of the assistants and whether they were prejudiced against me. Just because in my opinion all customers should be treated equally with warmth, what I encountered there baffled me if my role was a guest, and this role had constrained me to act with anger in public.
Concluding Reflections and Changes of Impression
All in all, as I had my reflection and introspection, I found the experience of that day was not very delightful. For example, seldom had I encountered similar situations like I was in the Perfume Store, and I did probe into my mind, as the self-perception theory instructs, “to know my attitudes, emotions and other internal states” (Zanna, 2008). Inferred from my observation was my unhappiness. Other than that, this research made several observations in relation with the meta, macro and meso levels, and found out that organizations like Reel are consumers in the ecosystem and they utilize what they consumed in exchange for profits .
Plus, as social norms and me at the first beginning might consider Reel to be a rich-only mall, it was proved to be not so but an opening space for different classes. Moreover, Reel was found to be an organization that had its own codes of conduct and cultures. Whether explicit or implicit, these codes and cultures offered guests like me a feeling of safeness, and they together with Reel itself constituted a place for us all to build social and cultural ties.