Are you a sucker for shopping at outlet malls?

Remember when you had to drive into the middle of nowhere to find a factory outlet store? From my house in Sacramento, I had to drive two hours to Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the World, to shop at one, but it was worth the travel because I knew I was going to score a great deal on designer goods, however "irregular" they may have been.

Now, factory outlets -- excuse me, "designer outlet malls" as they're now termed -- are everywhere. I pass two outlet malls on the 90-mile drive to San Francisco. There's even one in the Napa Valley, where plenty of upscale oenophile residents can afford to pay full price. These outlet malls are ubiquitous in California -- and so are the stores in them (Nine West, Brooks Brothers, Bass, Polo).