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Image / Style / Shopping

Making small talk and all the other things I had forgotten on my post-lockdown Penneys trip


by Sarah Finnan
17th May 2021

Getty

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It’s been so long since any of us were last in Penneys that we’ve forgotten how to make small talk, let alone what the inside looks like or how the experience feels.

I was one of the lucky few to make their way inside Penneys before it reopened its doors to the general public earlier this morning. An experience I can only describe as surreal, imagine what being locked in your favourite shop overnight would feel like and you have a pretty spot-on idea of how my Sunday morning went. 

Essentially given free rein to roam the store and browse to my heart’s content, the weekend’s shopping trip was sensory overload. Having spent much of the past few months seeing no one and doing nothing, I didn’t realise how unprepared I was to return to normal and between navigating my way around the shop, trying to find the right shade eyebrow pencil and making small talk with the cashier, I was ready for a three-hour nap right after.

Maybe you braved the queues today, maybe you’re saving your first Penneys trip for later in the week – either way, it’s likely you’re going to pay the high street giant a visit sometime soon. Not sure what to expect? Consider this your shopping cheat sheet. 

Your organisation skills will be tested

Sorry to bring everything back to Friends (aka my favourite show), but it’s just so quotable and my big Penneys day out brought one particular episode to mind – The one With The Cheap Wedding Dress. On the hunt for her dream wedding dress, Monica drags Rachel and Phoebe along with her to a huge 50% off sale at a discount store in Brooklyn. Assuming the role of sergeant drillmaster, as only Monica can, she hands whistles to the other women prior to entering the shop, giving them very clear instructions on what to do when they find the dress. You may have thought her dramatic at the time (as did I), but it’s only in hindsight that I realised Monica may have been onto something. 

While I’m not advising you storm Penneys, whistles in hand, what I am saying is that it’s probably a good idea to have some sort of action plan for when you get inside. Being allowed into an actual brick-and-mortar shop once again is overwhelming, so knowing what you need (knickers, socks, new PJs – the essentials) will definitely help make things a little less stressful. 

Monica may have had to rugby tackle another woman to get her dress, but don’t worry, it won’t come to that in Penneys. 

Lots of sizes have already sold-out

Only open for pre-booked appointment slots a handful of days, I was surprised (but probably shouldn’t have been) to see that sizes in lots of things had already sold out. Closed for much of this year, demand for Penneys stock is at an all-time high so don’t expect there to be three and four of everything. That’s not to say that the shop shelves are bare though, far from it in fact and there are racks upon racks of pastel-coloured summer attire. From strappy lilac heels to Clueless-inspired pyjamas, there’s plenty to choose from so fret not. 

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Shoppers should note that the changing rooms will remain closed for now.

You will have to make small talk 

This was one aspect I had not given much thought to until I was there in the moment, at the till, facing another person with whom I had to interact with. Months and months of little to no face-to-face socialising with anyone other than my housemates and postman means that my social skills have taken a beating. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had to make small talk and while I was never particularly good at it, even in pre-Covid times, it definitely used to be a whole lot easier. As Irish people, we can usually count on a few foolproof topics to tide us over when stuck – those being: the weather, hairdressers reopening, needing new socks and knickers. And yes, I reverted to all of them out of sheer panic. If all else fails use the tried and tested taxi one line of “busy today?”. Sure, it’s not exactly original but it’s enough to warm you up and remind you how to chat comfortably with strangers once again.

As with anything, we could talk about it until the cows come home but that probably won’t make things any easier so wear your mask, use your hand sanitiser and observe social distancing measures and you’ll be just fine. Go n-éiri an t-ádh leat. 

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