People (well, people who like to shop) tend to think I have a dream job. Even those who don't like to shop are usually intrigued by visions of me running through malls all day grabbing whatever I want. Yes, I am one of the few who can say to her boss "I'll be at the mall" and have that not be a bad thing. And I do spend more time than most at stores, but never as much as I spend at a desk. People are considerably less likely to want to steal my gig when they find out that I can't accept free stuff. I get better swag than anyone at the paper and regularly have stores offering me gift cards and discounts, but I have to turn it all down to avoid conflicts that would make it seem there's some personal agenda behind what I write.
Still, as I drove around town last week with a trunk full of expensive presents borrowed from local shops, I was struck by the oddness of what I do. I literally walk into stores, say, "this is cool!" and they let me take it, often without even leaving a business card. It's an odd power. I do it to show gifts, trends, hot items on TV or in the paper. And heck, it's a lot more fun than pushing paper. But what it really amounts to: a whole lot of schlepping.