After cart chaos, he’s not sold on E-Mart Town

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After cart chaos, he’s not sold on E-Mart Town

The moment a young married coupled pushing a baby stroller jumped into the elevator, the wife crossed her arms in dissatisfaction. “I’m never coming back,” she said.

This should have been my first indication of what was in store for the next four hours at the new E-Mart Town in Goyang, Gyeonggi.

The ambitious project personally handled by Shinsegae Group Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin received plenty of publicity before and after its official opening Thursday, with many news outlets praising the 250 billion won ($227 million) project.

By sheer numbers of visitors, E-Mart town surely attracted a huge crowd as the place was jammed with shoppers pushing carts here and there. Bloggers were busy with posts about the the food court and the cool life-size figurines of Yoda and Darth Maul of the “Star Wars” movies.

However, despite the hoopla, I can sum up my trip to E-Mart Town in one word: confusing.

It didn’t start out that way as I got off the elevator and headed toward the Peacock Food Court, which was much advertised on blogs. But in less than a minute, I met my first hurdle. I often shop at my neighborhood E-Mart but this was the first time I used the retailer’s warehouse store Traders, which is much like Costco.

When we tried to enter the food court with our shopping cart, the guard informed us we were using a Traders’ cart and not E-Mart’s.

“But both E-Mart and Traders are under Shinsegae Group, aren’t they?” was the first question that popped in my head. But since I was relatively new at this, I let it slide and returned the empty cart. Next, I couldn’t find a place to park the Trader’s bigger steel-framed cart. There was a spot where shoppers could return the smaller yellow-grey plastic E-Mart carts, but in order to return the Trader’s cart I had to take the moving walk a floor down toward the Trader’s store. The same issue kept coming up later on when we tried to move to the Electro Mart electronics department that was clearly modeled on Lotte’s Hi-Mart.

When we tried to move from Trader’s to the Electro Mart we were once again blocked by a security guard who told us we either had to park the cart or switch to E-Mart’s cart. We did as we were told, moving all of our groceries to the smaller E-Mart cart. We then tried to enter Electro Mart with the new cart, but were stopped again. “What did we do this time?” I asked myself. He then told us that any items already purchased cannot enter the electronics store. This shopping cart switching was starting to get on my nerves. On our last visit to the furniture and home decor department, which is on the second floor, we decided to just put our shopping cart in one of the lockers located near the elevator just to avoid another switch.

The arrangement of the products and aisles was also confusing.

The entrance to Traders’ was promising, with small speed boats selling for 20 million won. A camping car parked right next to it caught my attention and that of many other shoppers.

The first section near the entrance was selling bathroom items like Listerine three to a bundle and a German imported shampoo exclusively for balding men.

But after another few steps, we were faced with stuffed animals. A few more steps and we were in the food sections.

The place was pretty much a missmash of sections and felt disorganized. In one aisle, I was surrounded by dumplings and ice cream. Around the corner is a bed sheet with Disney’s “Frozen” on it. Turn right and there’s a sale on camping gear.

Without a map app, the place felt like chaos. Even the product selections were confusing. They had a wide variety of seasoning and spices, but not many choices when it came to coffee or pre-packaged salad.

Most of the products were the same ones I could buy at my nearby E-Mart.

The food section, though, was first class. The meat and fish, including lobsters, were top quality.

By the time we were at the parking lot, as the woman who jumped into the elevator said earlier, I told my wife, “I don’t think we will be coming here again anytime soon.”

Shopping isn’t all about buying and checking out grocery lists anymore. It’s an entertainment venue where a family could spend some time enjoying looking at products, eating a good meal and simply having fun. That’s how Costco and Ikea have been able to be successful.

Complicated shopping cart rules and confusion doesn’t help no matter how awesome the movie character figurines are.

My advice to Shinsegae Chairman Chung Yong-jin is that whenever you open something as ambitious as E-Mart town, put on some khaki shorts, pick up a cart and stroll around like an actual shopper. Because when you name a place “town,” shoppers like me think everything is accessible in one place.

The last thing we have in mind is switching carts just to enter a different section.

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