While the idea of a shopping mall has been around for some time, it was really in the latter half of the 20th century that the trend began to escalate. This is particularly true in the United States, where shopping centres became ubiquitous by the 1980s, increasing in size and number towards the end of the century.
The size of malls across the world followed this trend, with the current largest mall in the world being located in China. The New South China Mall in Dongguan has an astounding gross floor area of 9,600,000 square feet. More than half the world’s retail development is located entirely in China, and Shanghai alone has 3.3 million square metres currently under construction.
With such an abundance of shopping centres in the area, the city is undoubtedly going to be at the forefront of mall-related facilities. Malls are so ingrained in the modern lifestyle of the city’s denizens that there are even technologies being developed simply for the comfort of its shoppers. Made to suit the needs of tired men reluctantly joining on their wives’ shopping trips, these “husband storage” pods are truly bizarre.
The Global Harbor Mall, which is located in downtown Shanghai, has recently installed four cabins, or “pods”, for the specific use of exhausted husbands. The mall, which boasts 270,000 square metres of floor space, introduced “husband storage” facilities to distract husbands while their wives are shopping.
The glass cubicles provide a comfortable space with access to a range of retro video games via self-service computer equipment. Inside is a chair, monitor, computer, and various gamepads, and currently, their usage is completely free. They are being tested, with plans for payment options to be implemented at a later date. The idea is that eventually users will be able to scan a QR code on their phones, then pay a small sum for the service.
So far, they have been fairly popular, though there are frequent complaints over the heat of the cubicles, which supposedly have no air conditioning and insufficient ventilation. One user said: “I sat playing for five minutes and was drenched in sweat.”
There is some debate across social media in China, as the pods have become an object of ridicule and varying degrees of criticism. The China Daily quoted one woman who was in favour of the new technology. “I think it’s a creative way for my husband to take a break from shopping, which men are often not interested in,” she said. “It’s totally fine if he plays games there for half an hour while I’m trying on dresses and I don’t need his opinions.”
This isn’t even the first time something like this has been tried out. Beginning in 2010, but gaining some traction in 2014, some Chinese malls tried out “husband cloakrooms”, which were essentially rest areas with seats, TVs, and smoking sections.
It’s understandable that this has become the subject of debate, as the premise that only men would want to use the pods is flawed at best. On another note, one commenter questioned the concept; “If my husband just wants to go out and play games, what’s the point of bringing him out?” she asked. Nevertheless, as soon as they sort the A/C out, I’m sure they’ll have lines of people waiting to give them a go.