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Michael O'Malley is a senior studying political science at Ohio University.

For What It's Worth: I hate outlet malls

I HATE OUTLET MALLS. I hate them with a fiery passion. I hate Saks Off 5th. I hate the Under Armor outlet. I even hate the Nike store. From concept through praxis, the whole affair offends me. Frankly, outlet malls are an abomination, and I look forward to the day they are inevitably driven from this earth by the internet. My objections to these odious amalgamations of capitalism and middle-class desperation are too numerous to lay out in full at this juncture. However, in this article, I intend to elucidate a few, starting with the physical and moving on to the more intangible.

Unfortunately, I have been dragged to more outlet malls than I would care to admit. Aside from my disdain, these places had several other commonalities between them. While there are minor stylistic variations, the manner in which the majority of these malls are constructed is practically identical. In order to maximize profitability, they are usually thrown up in a cheap and hasty fashion. Outlet malls utilize only the finest in low-end building materials and feature such luxurious amenities as unpolished concrete floors, unfinished ceilings, corrugated metal roofing, and, of course, a dearth of insulation. These flaws are masked by a few chic touches and the fact that no one possessing any semblance of class has ever set foot in one of these places. Furthermore, the fact that these sites are so poorly constructed restricts their potential utility — meaning when outlet malls eventually go the way of traditional malls, the shells they leave behind will be just as useless as those of their conventional counterparts.

These realities are indicative of deeper and less tangible truths regarding the outlet mall industry. In the same way physical inadequacies of the outlet mall are veiled by a combination of ignorance and a deceptive air of luxury, so is the poor quality of the goods therein sold concealed. Due to improvements in manufacturing methods, there are far fewer factory overruns. In spite of this fact, the outlet malls have enjoyed decades of uninterrupted growth. Consequently, the products available at outlets are no longer excess retail stock. Rather these products are likely to be either defective goods unfit for sale elsewhere or lower quality products designed specifically for outlet retail. These products are crap, but people will buy them because they say Polo on the tag, and that’s all that matters to a middle-class shopper chasing an unachievable dream.

These venues prey on middle-class consumers who, in recent decades, have seen their wealth stagnate as their prospects of economic mobility have dwindled. Outlet malls enable these individuals to trick themselves into believing they are well-off by allowing them to feel as though they have access to the trappings of wealth. As such, they are akin to a modern day opiate of the masses. In short, the outlet mall is problematic because it is pure exploitation. The wealthy have relegated the American dream to the world of fantasy and sold us in the middle class a pack of lies in its stead: Everything is fine, you are wealthy like us, you have the same things we do, the American dream is within reach and all you need is this pair of loafers.

The outlet mall is a physical manifestation of what is wrong with this nation. Much like the United States, the outlet mall is a place in which the appearance of prosperity and luxury masks an untenable infrastructure. Both are places where the superficial trappings of wealth are glorified. These are places where people go to chase a dream they have no hope of achieving.

Michael O'Malley is a senior studying political science at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What do you think of outlet malls? Email your thoughts to Michael at

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