Sunday, June 17, 2007

Changing Habits

When it comes to selling things, I think it's fair to say that Koreans believe in maximising the space that they have. So there are shops everywhere, and don't think that a six-foot gap between two buildings is useless space - because it's still possible to build another shop there. A surprising number of clothes stores nearby are only big enough for one member of staff and a couple of customers at the most, in a six-by-six foot space that's also supposed to house a cash register and of course, the actual items for sale.

But even if a store is more spacious, Korean clothing retailers often still want to maximise their selling space, and one gets the impression that such details as changing rooms are provided merely as a reluctant afterthought. So welcome to the perils of the typical shop corner changing room. The need to remove shoes before trying on some items results in some encroachment of the outside floor space into the room (you're not supposed to step on the carpeted area with your shoes), leaving a space of around 15 square inches to actually change. It wasn't easy, but I only managed to take this photo by squeezing myself into the corner and standing on my toes.

The real amusement value lies in trying to change while simultaneously avoiding tipping over the step, falling into the door and bursting out into the store beyond, presumably with your pants around your ankles for maximum hilarity, something which has in fact almost happened to me twice here, my embarrassment saved only by an entirely fortunate hand just missing the door and finding the wall next to it as I started to fall. I'm sure the day will come when my luck runs out though and some international incident is caused. But while Koreans must have got the practice of contorting their bodies in these changing rooms to a fine art, I can't help but suspect that if one day I do burst out of one unexpectedly, I won't be the first to fall foul of inherently booby-trapped design.

Clearly Korean retailers are not so bothered though. The picture above was taken in a newly completed outlet of clothing chain "So,Basic" - which tends to suggest that rethinks on the space afforded to changing rooms are just not on the agenda. But the prize for silliest changing room has to be awarded to our local Tesco supermarket - it's located in a three-by-three feet supporting column within the building, in which it's impossible to bend down.

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