Backpack! Swarm!

I recently had one of those quintessentially "ah..China!" moments—the kind where a foreigner rolls her eyes and scratches her head.  The thing is, though, this one actually took place in Maplewood Minnesota–in a JC Penney's store to be precise. 

I loathe shopping, but forced myself to head to a local mall because, well, there were some things I needed to buy.  I spent the minimum amount of time possible poking in and out of stores, and eventually wandered into Penney's store to look for some jeans.  My intention was to buy something. 

As I entered the store on the 2nd floor and got onto the escalator going down I heard some chatter and commotion behind me.  "murmer murmer BACKPACK murmer murmer BACKPACK….."

I didn't give it any thought until a clerk came up behind me and said "I'm sorry ma'am, but backpacks are not allowed in the store.  You will either have to check it at customer service or leave the store," whereupon we proceeded to have a 'conversation from the twilight zone," the kind I might have in a department store in Beijing.  It proceeded something like this:

Me:  Come again!!
Clerk:  I'm sorry, but you cannot carry a backpack in the store.  It's a regulation!
Me:  That's nuts.  I've been in this store tons of times and have never been stopped.  Since when do you have this regulation?
Clerk:  We've always had it.
Me:  So why is this the first time I've been stopped?
Clerk:  I don't know.  You'll either have to check it or leave.
Me:  I think I will opt for leaving since this is insane. 
Clerk:  Ok, I will escort you to the door.
Me:  You know, don't you, that you're permanently losing a customer.
Clerk:  That's fine.

So, be warned!  If you plan to shop at the Penney's at Maplewood Mall in Minnesota, don't take your backpack unless you want to be escorted out the door.  Oh, and don't look for me.  I will most likely not shop there in the future.