Tim Talk: Stoneridge Mall losing its luster for some


Stoneridge Shopping Center, a shopping mecca for generations of Livermore Valley residents, is losing its luster for some patrons.

I met with two ladies who are longtime Stoneridge shoppers, Rachel McElhinney of Pleasanton and Diane Ries Keller, formerly of Pleasanton now living in Livermore. They shared their experiences and concerns with the kiosk operated by Vine Vera, an Israeli-based company that sells skin care products. It's located near Macy's where the mall is fairly narrow so shoppers are readily available to their salespeople.

Typical complaints on the internet and from the two local ladies are the very aggressive sales tactics used by the staff that typically involve persuading a shopper to try free sample and then holding on (literally and figuratively) to the person and striving to upsell them with a variety of expensive products.

Rachel shared some internet sites that were full of complaints about the company. One real sticking point is a no-refund policy. That coupled with high-pressure sales tactics rubs many consumers the wrong way. The company became such a problem in New Zealand malls that major operator Westfield kicked them out across the country.

She believes the salespeople target older people and described them as aggressive as panhandlers. Before reaching out to me, she had brought the matter to the mall management's attention and received a $50 gift card.

In one of her emails to mall management, Rachel wrote, "I attended a Women's Bible Study meeting last week and mentioned my experience at Stoneridge Mall. Every one of the women had a similar story of being harassed. The next day I got my hair cut and again I brought up my experience at the mall. All of the women and men at the salon had been assaulted by these vendors who won't take NO for an answer.

"Warnings and fines have not curtailed the harassment at Stoneridge Mall.

"It has gone on for years. I think Simon Co. has a responsibility to remedy this situation quickly. It is a disservice to shoppers, and to other stores, as it drives people away from the mall. Every time I've been harassed, I've cut my shopping short and returned home. It's easier to shop online and avoid being hassled by the vendors who are way out of line."

When I reached out to mall management to discuss the issue, the Stoneridge public relations agency returned my call and asked that I refer Rachel to them so they could look into the matter. They had no further comment. She was taken aback at the request to contact management, something she had done by email and by phone several times this year.

Diane's story, which she wrote in her book "A Wife's Caregiver Saga: Facing Frontotemporal Dementia," describes a 2012 incident with her late husband before he disease worsened. Kevin wanted to go Christmas shopping so they went to Stoneridge with plans to meet up after an hour. He didn't show up. With the help of a friend, she found him at the cosmetics booth with several bags.

Upon returning home, she looked in the bags and was astonished to find many receipts totaling more than $7,000. When she went back to return the cosmetics the next day, she was told "no refunds." The saleswoman, as Diane wrote, screamed at her.

Diane then had her second episode of temporary global amnesia and had to be hospitalized. After she was released, with the help of the mall manager, she received a refund for all the items other than the $175 shaving cream because their dog chewed the box. The hospital bill was as much as the refund.

What would concern me, if I were Stoneridge management, was Rachel's comment that the buzz in several of her women's groups they were "all going to Walnut Creek" now that Broadway Plaza has completed its renovations.

Driving about an hour round-trip to avoid the local mall is sending a powerful message to the management -- as is Rachel's comment about online shopping.

Editor's note: Journalist Tim Hunt has written columns on the Tri-Valley community for more than 40 years. He grew up in the valley and lives in Pleasanton. His "Tim Talk" blog appears twice a week at

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11 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on May 14, 2019 at 5:55 pm

I've never had a problem with the kiosk folks, although they crowd the hall.

And if I let a family member with a mental ailment wander around and buy their own stuff, that sounds like a family member dropped the ball. Personal items, make-up, meat, etc...often have no-return policies.

Looks like our resident blow-hard has an axe to grind because a couple of his friends are annoyed. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like Tim's friends though. I'm fine with the mall.

19 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on May 15, 2019 at 6:45 am

Grumpy is a registered user.

Well, I'm not fine with the mall, yet I too don't understand why Tim chose to focus on this anecdote rather than the real problems with the mall. Key and high end stores are closing or moving and being replaced with nothing. People get robbed in the garage. And yet Tim focuses on a story that is replete with fear of foreigners and poor caregiving that shed doubt on Tim, not just his friends.

Yes, an impaired person being taken advantage of by an aggressive and unscrupulous dealer is a problem. But the story reads like we're seeing only a small part of it. I don't want to say that its ending in mere inconvenience after the full refund meant that no harm came along the way, but it did have a happy ending and that does give the story some flavor of ax grinding.

Tim, you had such an opportunity to investigate and highlight the rapid decline of what was once something to be proud of in Pleasanton. I'm not sure how you missed the story to chase a shaggy dog story.

12 people like this
Posted by Doug
a resident of Birdland
on May 15, 2019 at 8:43 am

Given the title of Tim’s article, the content of it was not what I was expecting. With the shutdown of Sears and stories of malls throughout the country having difficulties, concerns about the future of Stoneridge Mall go way, way beyond the behavior of the people working a cosmetics kiosk at the mall.

As for the cosmetic kiosk, I know the one Tim is talking about because I’ve been approached by the people there several times. I just smile and wave “no thanks” to them and move on and have never had any trouble. Still, when I recall that area of the mall, I now remember that I do tend to unconsciously speed up my walking pace when I get near that kiosk so I can pass by as quickly as possible. That’s a bit of an annoyance. I think that that’s the only part of the mall that I feel slightly uncomfortable with, and I can’t recall any other kiosk vender there who reaches out to passerby the way the people at the cosmetics kiosk do. So, personally, I think that it would be a good idea if the mall management were to make a rule for kiosk employees that they are not allowed to reach out to and solicit passerby.

The behavior of the cosmetic kiosk people is not a big deal for me, but it is a minor annoyance and one more reason for me to just do more of my shopping on Amazon, and I don’t think that the mall managers want to hear that from mall customers like myself.

15 people like this
Posted by 30 year resident
a resident of Country Fair
on May 15, 2019 at 9:45 am

My wife and all her friends would rather drive to Walnut Creek than shop the mall or downtown Pleasanton, and do so regularly. The outdoor experience, flowers, fountains, restaurants and food choices, and the variety of stores is far superior. They enjoy it and often make a day of it. The indoor experience at Stoneridge, with the noise and cramped quarters and limited selection is generally avoided except for making a quick return of merchandise already purchased. Pleasanton needs to step up it's game, and I encourage the city to consider doing so downtown as well. Even Livermore has become a superior destination after their downtown renovation.

7 people like this
Posted by Longtime Pleasanton resident.
a resident of Stoneridge
on May 15, 2019 at 10:02 am

By the title of this article I thought it would be discussing the decline of the mall. What was once crowded and full of shoppers is now becoming a graveyard of empty stores. In regards to the kiosk (which I always walk past and just say no thanks) it sounds as if this a personal problem. Maybe the church group needs to spend more time talking about god instead of complaining. Which I find happens all too much with society.

Anyway....if the new plans for the mall go through we will have a more current and up to date shopping experience it will be better for our town.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 15, 2019 at 11:13 am

I have lived here 30 years and used to be extremely comfortable going to the mall at any time of night. Now I barely go in the day. Once was a mall brimming with high end stores for ALL. Now it's a mecca for young teen stores with disposable goods and nothing for the 40+ group! Even Nordstrom here has lost sight of their clientele. It is an unsafe destination that now appears like other malls in run down areas.

9 people like this
Posted by Anony
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 15, 2019 at 11:19 am

I think in order to stave off the decline in the mall, Simon needs to invest in more “entertainment”- type options there, instead of the old, tired cheap-clothing stores and kiosks.

Someone on the Pleasanton Community Facebook page commented that it was looking like a Third World country in there. That’s actually a very racist comment if he was referring to skin color. It doesn’t matter WHO is running the kiosks—they are not what the community wants in there.

No one NEEDS to go to the mall anymore, with Amazon and discounters offering equal or better options. Simon needs to create a REASON to go to the mall. Theaters, a grocery store, and a gym are good places to start. I would have loved to see a skating rink there, but it’s doubtful it will happen.

And, yes, something is going down at the nearly empty shopping plaza next to the mall. I don’t know exactly what but it’s definitely happening. I hope they move World Market into the mall ‘cuz I love that store!

3 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on May 15, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Twenty to twenty-five percent of all calls into the Pleasanton Police Department for Police assistance are Stoneridge Mall related.

6 people like this
Posted by Jake Waters
a resident of Birdland
on May 15, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Jake Waters is a registered user.

Now that Workday has opened, the Mall should consider what will entice the employees to come over for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, because there is a large market with manny possibilities. The few eateries currently there is not enough to draw them day in and day out, not to mention the after work opportunities to service that industry. Time will tell as it always does.

4 people like this
Posted by Al Czervik
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on May 15, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Country clubs, cemeteries (& shopping malls) are the biggest wasters of prime real estate...

In all reality the enclosed shopping mall concept has outlived its usefulness. Walnut Creek, Santana Row & the various downtowns all have more to offer from an aesthetic point of view.

Oh yeah & then there's Amazon.

1 person likes this
Posted by Anony
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 15, 2019 at 2:58 pm

Wow, that vendor has no boundaries

4 people like this
Posted by Reality Bites
a resident of Del Prado
on May 16, 2019 at 3:30 pm

Reality Bites is a registered user.

@ Al - I keep saying we should combine golf courses and cemeteries. Just think, to honor your dearly departed loved ones, you could play a round of golf. You would need 19 holes since you would probably want to shut a hole down when someone is being buried. You would not have gravestones, but rather a plaque at each tee with a location of your departed family member. The course could charge a premium to be buried under the tee box or the green or that really difficult dog leg left on the par 5 9th hole.

I have a couple of name ideas too. Putt & Plant. Die & Drive. Croak & Chip.

3 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:40 pm

David is a registered user.

If a new parking garage is built, the parking lot(s) could be a plaza like Broadway Plaza with outdoor fountains, benches, and outdoor dining. My wife does not go there at night because of a long walk to her car. Extending lighted covered walkways into the lots and ending with a Cafe could inject vibrancy into an otherwise dead zone. A mall with a sea of asphalt parking is very 1970-1980. Look at Pleasant Hill downtown which was created on the site of an old strip mall.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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