The Weekender, December 1, 2017

1) “Requiem for the Mall ” (Popular Mechanics, 18 minutes, November 2017). Thanks to Craig S. for sharing this story.

Why? Why does anyone go to the mall these days? It’s a valid question. Have they not outlived their use? I went to see what life is left in them. People opine about malls being dead. Maybe they are. But here’s this one, still at 93 percent occupancy and employing thirty-eight hundred people. Nine million visitors a year. So, technically alive. Anyway I hadn’t been in a while, and I wondered what goes on in there. I wondered if they had changed.

The mall in question is Eastview Mall, in Victor, New York, a suburb of Rochester, my hometown. It’s big, as these things go (1.6 million square feet), and old, in depreciation terms—forty-six years since its making (and it’s been expanded several times). It’s populated with the usual suspects of retail life: Macy’s, Sears, JCPenney, Victoria’s Secret, L.L. Bean, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lids, Aeropostale, Banana Republic, the Apple Store, Forever 21, The Walking Company, Nail Studio, Nail Studio 2. It has a large detached theater complex and a food court that’s jaunty when it’s full and semi-tragic when devoid of customers. Banners of new food offerings—garlic knots, lobster mac n’ cheese—hang like wanted posters in Carson City. There’s a carousel, improbably manned by a living ticket taker, doling tickets to ride for one dollar. And there are restaurants of unusual size: Chang’s, Champps, Biaggi’s, Bonefish Grill.

So, not the mall. Not the best mall. Not the first. Or the biggest. Just a mall.

2) My other site: AwesomeClaus — curated gift ideas for $20 or less. Stuff like a Mario-themed pipe mug, a desktop punching bag, an emergency clown nose, sriracha popcorn, and pictured below, unicorn meat. Highly recommended, which I can say with confidence because it’s my website.

Thanks to all of you who sent in suggestions for new products — I meant to add them last night, but have the links on another computer. So, I’ll add them this weekend/next week. For everyone else, if you have suggestions for new products, please hit reply to let me know!

3) The Now I Know Week in Review:

MondayLet’s Fly in Our Sleep — how birds migrate over very long distances without taking a break

TuesdayWhat Do You Do With 10,000 Pounds of Spoiled Mayo? — A real problem faced by Michigan State University, with a real solution.

WednesdayThe Municipal Pooper Scooper Lottery — I screwed up on the original and said “Thailand” at the end when I meant “Taiwan.” Thanks to everyone who emailed me to let me know — it’s now corrected on the archives.

ThursdayBaks the Blind Dog and His Gaggle of Eyes — Just man’s best friend and his best friends (which are geese).

And a bonus: Mr. Peeler — the story of a man who turned $8 potato peelers into a six-figure income.

4) “How renting furniture in Texas can land you in jail​” (Texas Tribune, 16 minutes, October 2017). The subhead: “While other businesses have to use civil remedies when customers don’t pay their debts, the rent-to-own industry has a special tool in Texas law that lets them file criminal charges, an investigation by the Tribune and NerdWallet found.​”

When Melinda Sandlin walked out of Discount Furniture in Austin in late 2014, she was sure the store had put her on a payment plan to buy a new bedroom suite worth $2,750.

A year later, after realizing she had sent in more than $3,000 for her seven-piece set, she figured she was done. So Sandlin told the store clerk she wasn’t going to be making any more monthly payments.

“I already bought it out,” she recalls telling them. “And they’re like, ‘Oh no, read your contract. It’s a rental contract. It’s not a purchase contract.’ ”

That’s when her nightmare began.

5) “How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met” (Gizmodo, 10 minutes, November 2017). The title summarizes it better than anything I could add here.

6) “Loyalty Nearly Killed My Beehive” (Nautilus, 13 minutes, October 2017). The subhead: “My queen was a dud, and her replacement had been murdered.”

Have a great weekend!