If the downtown mall owners are wondering why traffic to their stores seems to be dwindling, maybe this story will help. On Saturday, Aug. 5, I ventured to the ZCMI Center downtown intending to purchase several pairs of cargo pants.

At around 2:30 p.m., I entered Eddie Bauer's and a nice young salesman immediately offered his help. We were doing fine until, practically in midsentence, he says, "Oh, I'm being paged," and runs off.

Inasmuch as I felt I needed more help (I had, in fact, taken one pair of pants off the shelf for purchasing), I waited for him to return. Nothing stirred in my direction, so I left the pants lying on the rack and departed.

As I was leaving, I noticed that I was the only customer in the place. Three sales clerks were standing together in the middle of an animated and important discussion, I am sure. As I left, one of them yelled, "Thanks for coming in!" I resolved in my own mind, "Never again."

From there, I immediately went to the "Tommy Hilfiger" section of the ZCMI store. I was willing to pay $20 more per pair of pants, but the same thing happened. The young sales clerk walked off and left me standing there with the questions I still needed answered.

From there, I went to my office, pulled up the Internet, found some cargo pants that filled my need and ordered them. I have to wait three to five days for delivery, but hey, the process was a lot easier, more pleasant and took a whole lot less than half the time.

Ned C. Snell

Salt Lake City