Is retail ever a pleasant experience?

On Saturday, I found myself at the Westfield Mall in downtown San Francisco (to see the Steve Jobs movie). Afterward, I wandered around a little bit and then went to the food court--which was pretty amazing. It was a very sleek food court: all wooden surfaces and muted colors. Everything was quite in keeping with the styles of the times. The restaurants, too, were fast food type places, but with a nice gloss. There wasn't any Sbarro's here.

But even with all of that, the place was still crowded and bland and miserable. Too many people. Too much noise. Too small a space.

I'd say it's not just malls that are bad--it's all stores. Every store I've ever been in has felt like a place I want to leave as soon as possible (I don't except bookstores from this, either). They're always so bland and muted, and everything feels like it's been touched too many times. Even the Apple Store, which is supposed to be such a marvel of design, is a horrorshow. You sit there at those little benches, surrounded by people. It's awful.

Bookstores are a little better, but I think that's primarily because: a) I actually like books; and b) they're rarely crowded. I do not go into bookstores for fun. In fact, I haven't entered a bookstore--aside from going to a friend's reading--in years.

Is it just the commerce aspect, I wonder? I don't feel the same sense of horror when I'm in a library. There I feel comfortable with the space and with my presence in it. But restaurants and coffee shops are also public places of commerce, and I'm okay with those too. Ugh, I don't know what it is. Even writing about stores is enough to make my skin crawl.