We here at Mallrate don't ask for much. A roof over our head, access to clean water, a warm bed at night, and a mall made to our exacting specifications. We have whittled what we are looking for into ten salient points; some may be pretty widely agreed upon, but some may raise a few eyebrows. Nowadays, one or two points are even as hard to find as runny molasses in February. Now that's rare. Having said all that, we love malls. Any shape, any size, they always bring a smile to our faces. These are just a few pet peeves and personal preferences; things we may take into account when rating a mall. So, let us begin!

1. Not too crowded

There is nothing worse than trying to wander aimlessly around a mall when there is a stream of people shuffling you along. You know it is too crowded when you stop for a second and suddenly a crowd forms behind you as if you were about to deliver a sermon. Also, when you see a shop you like but between you and it flows a lava-stream of equally harassed people, you need to get the hell out of there. Now it may seem slightly unfair to blame a mall for its busy-ness, we should on the contrary be lauding the centre for such an achievement, but to quote the famous Doug Heffernan: I hate people I don't know! Don't worry, we don't mark down malls too heavily for this issue.

2. You should not be able to see the sky

This is one of those rare values not really seen in today's modern malls. Growing up in the 90s, malls were utilitarian. The outsides were butt-ugly, nothing more than a case to in which to hold all the internal wonderful. There were no skylights - natural light had no part to play in the old-skool mall experience. I loved being entombed by a retail cocoon, blissfully unaware if even a tornado had swept the rest of the town away. I would be deliriously happy in the hermetically sealed, temperature controlled environment of the mall. Plastic plants were as close as it got to a nod that the outside world existed. Nowadays, however, it's all about bringing the outdoors indoors, with skylights and the like. That's great and all but, what can I say, I'm a product of my time and I likes what I likes. I will, however, draw the line if I am in a mall and I get rained on.

3. Not too pristine, not too dirty

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about this point is the Westfield Merry Hill Mall in Birmingham, England. I was walking along one of the many spiderweb-like walkways and, for some reason, looked up. And up there I saw something wonderful. I saw the guts of the mall through missing ceiling covers. There were bits dangling and I thought to myself, I like this; For some weird reason, I like this. Sections of that same mall have a little bit of schmutz in-between the floor tiles and a slightly run-down feel. And I could not have been happier about it. There is something about a mall being a little scrappy, not unlike the shopping districts within the super high-rises of MegaCity-1 in the latest iteration of Judge Dredd. Spotless is fine, but a little crud goes a long way (as long as the same theme is not carried through into the restrooms)!

4. Can I spend 24 hours in this place?

Boredom is the enemy of the mall! We rate a mall highly on the ability to spend a good chunk of time there. In fact, we go a step further and ask ourselves if we could spend 24 hours there. Now, we don't spend 24 hours in a given mall unless they are actually open for that long or there is a hotel attached (some malls have this amazing feature and they score big brownie points for it!), but we will spend an entire day when rating a mall. That is from just before the stores open to when they close. This gives us a good idea of what the mall is like at all times of day, from the magical pre-opening wandering, cup of coffee in hand, to the busy middle, to the electric evening. Certain things are important in order to lubricate an entire day in a mall - good facilities, plenty of place to sit, good eats, varied stores and, of course, a cinema. If these are all in place it's a good day.

5. Variation in design

You could be forgiven for thinking that the above picture is of a mall (maybe take another look!). But in certain cases, who could tell the difference, amirite? Now, we don't put too much importance in the layout of the mall if there are good stores and facilities, but if it is a cookie-cutter mall with all the standard fare, we can get a little jaded. We like malls built like mazes, with nooks and crannies there waiting to be explored. A dark, undiscovered corner is, to us, a thing of joy, and if at least one of the stores in that dark corner is a little weird, I may leave a little puddle. I can offer Nakano Broadway in Tokyo, Japan as a prime example of weird stores in dark corners.

6. Variation in stores

There are standard brands in all countries, which everyone knows and loves, we always expect to see in a good mall. They are great stores and ones I shall always wander into, but if they are all that is there, if there is nothing to set the mall apart, it can get a little samey. We also seek out quirky stores, we love to see something a little weird. Stores selling many kinds of crystals for some reason (my chakras are just fine thanks), coin and stamp stores, off-chain video-game and comic book stores, memorabilia or gadget stores, used book stores, we could go on, it doesn't even need to be something I am interested in, they could sell little porcelain frogs for all I care; It just has to be different! Mallrate would like to apologise to all collectors of porcelain frogs for any offence caused.

7. Great food-court

Foooood. The author is a live-to-eat kinda person. The food-court is a beautiful thing and a highlight of any mall worth its salt. It is the place to hang out with friends, eat, people-watch and generally socialise. It is always the part of a mall that buzzes the most. It is also the best place to formulate the afternoon's plan of attack, which stores we would like to revisit, which stores we have so far missed, maybe which movie will be watched that evening. It therefore needs to be big, comfy and the food has to be quick and delicious. Here is where I slightly contradict point six, variation in food choice is not so important, I don't mind seeing all the usual suspects. Where food is concerned, the fewer shocks and surprises the better! Having said that, if a place we don't recognise has a big queue we shall be tempted away from our comforting favourites.

8. Cinema is a must

Mallrate believes that a cinema is vital to the mall experience. It extends the time one can spend in a centre and adds a huge amount of entertainment to a day out at the mall. Not only do you get to see the latest blockbuster, but you also get to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the mall. Sometimes a nice, comfy seat in a dark, air conditioned room is just the cure when mall-frazzle occasionally grips. And you get to see a film. And you can have a couple of sweets! Also, call me a bit weird, but I love the feeling of leaving the cinema after the movie. Your eyes adjust to the outside world and there is that feeling of great anticipation on re-entering the mall while discussing the finer points of the film.

9. Darker is better

Ah, here is another rare thing. Again, there is no problem when the mall is all bright and white, with sunshine streaming in; it is nice in its own way and we would not put that as a mark against it. But for us, you really can't beat dark marble and soft lighting. It lends a more cosy, homely vibe to the mall. It is much like when you go into the higher-end fashion stores or cinemas, they are often rich and dark to imply an aire of luxury. We feel the same applies to the malls. Just the fact that this style of interior is becoming less and less prevalent makes finding a centre like this ever more exciting.

10. Size matters (that's what she said)

Let's face it, sheer size of mall is a huge factor. The larger the mall is, the more stores it can contain, the more entertained you are, the longer you stay and shop/mallrat. Also, the larger the mall is, the more likely it is that any possible crowds will be well dispersed. These are all very good things! There is nothing more exciting than entering a mall and seeing several delicious layers just waiting to be devoured. Another great thing is that on this scale, the management are forced to get creative and take chances in order to fill these behemoths; this causes these mega-malls to naturally have all of those quirky independent stores we look for amongst all of the beloved regulars. And how do these beautiful places feed their famished guests? With an equally big-ass food-court, of course; Another fabulous perk of these sizeable institutions. Finally, escalators. Millions of whirring escalators get us all aflutter!

So, get all this right and you get the gold!

Prestigious Gold! So Close Silver! Nearly There Bronze!

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