I read a short story decades ago about a dystopian future with rampant consumerism.

The protagonist was a woman whose husband had received a promotion, allowing her access to an exclusive mega-mall. When she gets tired, she has a terrible time finding her way back to the parking garage, but soon discovers there is no exit. I seem to remember that the husband was never going to be able to leave his office, either. I think she has a son with her, but I could be wrong.

It's been driving me crazy, so any help is appreciated!!

  • Do you remember how long ago? Was it in the 90s? Or maybe the 60s? Providing a more accurate time period helps narrow down the results and us identify your answer! Was there anything particularly super-natural about the mall she was being kept in? Any other Science fictional or fantastical elements in the story, otherwise we'll have to refer you to our sister site, Literature, where all literature identifications are on-topic.
    – Edlothiad
    Jun 30, 2018 at 7:32
  • 4
    @Edlothiad Any other stfnal or fantastical elements may well halp to identify the story. But the story as described is fantastic enough to be on topic here. (Is there a mall with no exit in your neck of the woods?)
    – user14111
    Jun 30, 2018 at 7:44
  • This question would be improved by going through the checklists here ; How to ask a good story-ID question?
    – Valorum
    Jun 30, 2018 at 7:47
  • 2
    @user14111 I could imagine a twisted fella creating something where you walk into a maze in a mall and end up getting stuck indefinitely and having everything look similar could lead to the image of an endless mall. It certainly doesn’t have to be fantastical, although I did give the OP the benefit of the doubt, but explicit details are always better, imo
    – Edlothiad
    Jun 30, 2018 at 8:42
  • Let's go to the mall!
    – Valorum
    Jul 1, 2018 at 18:06

3 Answers 3


It reminds me Days by James Lovegrove. Here is one cover of the book: enter image description here

There is a giant store where you can buy anything. A matchbox, a tiger, a Ferrari, socks, ... The store is quite big as a city and have many levels. Aisles are like streets. You can rent a car to wander among them more easily.

The reader follows the adventures of :

  • a woman and her husband in this enormous store for the first time. She's very excited, but the husband is reticent
  • a disenchanted security guard on his last day of work
  • an employee from the Book department, fomenting a rebellion against the IT department
  • the seven brothers, who own the place (the youngest is a source of problems).They live at the top floor of the store and leave it rarely. Their names are based on the seven days of the week. Days is their family name and also the name of the store.

The right amount of credit on your card will buy you anything--a rare matchbook, an albino tiger, the women in the Pleasure department. Days is the grandest of department stores, whose security men are licensed to kill and whose seven owners, a group of very different brothers, brood in a penthouse, fetched endless vast meals by a grumpy butler. James Lovegrove's novel inhabits that realm where satire borders on allegory and realism is full of wild magic; it was, nonetheless, shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke prize. Security man Frank has reached a point of alienation such that he can no longer see himself in the mirror; Gordon and Linda have just got their first Days storecard, and are keen to undergo the Days experience; the Book Department's feud for space with their neighbours in Computers is about to enter a new phase. There are flash sales in Ties and Dolls, and a riot in Third World Musical Instruments. And who is sleeping in the Bed Department's four- poster? Endlessly inventive and savage in its humour, Lovegrove's novel will change for ever the way you feel about superstores, and gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "shop till you drop". --Roz Kaveney

I don't remember the "no exit" part, but she really gets lost and falls into the exotic animal zone (she met there the albino tiger that many people seem to remember and is for sale, as anything in the store)

  • sounds like a ballard story, no?
    – releseabe
    Nov 29, 2023 at 1:05

Dark Toys and Consumer Goods by Laurence Staig

I found this post because I was looking for the same story. After a lot of googling different search terms I managed to locate a reddit thread where it was answered so I thought I'd leave the answer here too.

This review mentions what may be the mall story.

Now long out of print, but a clever concept. This is a series of short creepy stories, but they all have some nasty spin on an element of consumerism. For instance, there is the credit card that gets implanted in your body - which is fine, until you're in debt and can't afford to pay ... Or the one that particular resonates (maybe because it makes me think of a couple of Westfields that I know) is the shopping complex that you can get into, but you can't ever leave - and you're doomed to shop all day, running from one endless sale to the other ...

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you please provide some more details about the story so it's apparent how it matches the question? Note that you have provided the title of a collection, not identified the specific story you believe the question is looking for; please do that.
    – DavidW
    Nov 29, 2023 at 0:22
  • @DavidW - Closed Circuit lucianpoll.com/category/reviews/books-reviews/page/2
    – Valorum
    Nov 29, 2023 at 7:16

It’s a story, Baglady, in AS Byatt’s collection, Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice. According to Shame and the Aging Woman:

[A] very different fate awaits the central character in "Baglady"—Daphne Gulver-Robinson—who ends up horribly trapped in a nightmarish version of old age when she magically transforms from an English lady into an unkempt and anonymous baglady. When Daphne accompanies her husband to a company meeting in the Far East, she is shunted off with, and then shunned by, the other wives of the company's all-male directors. [...] During a two-hour outing at the Good Fortune Shopping Mall—which has a prison-like appearance from the outside—Daphne undergoes a rapid and frightening transformation.

Left on her own when the younger women rush off and leave her behind, Daphne becomes lost in a labyrinthine world of shops upon shops and, to her dismay, she discovers that exit signs lead her back into a series of identical streets with their boxed shop-fronts.

  • 4
    Hi, welcome to SciFi.SE! Could you edit in a couple reasons why you believe this is what the OP is looking for? Please see How to Answer for some helpful info
    – fez
    Feb 16 at 13:55
  • 2
    You could at least identify which story it is...
    – DavidW
    Feb 16 at 14:20

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