This article first appeared in the Herald Sun
Are shopping centers quieter than they used to be? I remember twenty years ago parking on a piece of grass a ten-minute walk from Highpoint, and it being fifty-fifty if my car would be there when I got back. Or going to Chadstone and spending an hour shopping, and two hours in the carpark.
The last time I went to a shopping center, on a Saturday in December while it was raining, I thought it’d take at least thirty minutes to find a parking spot. It took zero, my toes did not get crushed by one stroller, nor did I repeatedly get stuck behind waddling couples in tracksuits, and I only saw a handful of distraught males waiting on the benches outside of Myer and David Jones. I only knew it was a shopping center due to the retirement village décor, charity muggers, and all the 80s saddest water features.
It was astonishingly quiet, and online shopping is the culprit. In the same way that shopping centers decimated local shopping strips, and department stores destroyed so many independents, the internet is coming for shopping centers.
If what I want can be found and ordered with a couple of clicks and delivered to my doorstep, instead of hours of searching and maybe not finding, of course I’m going with that option. Sometimes I still try things on, but that’s usually for a special occasion and because someone is making me. For example, my wedding. With every other piece of clothing, I’ve discovered if you keep buying the same thing, you can’t go wrong.
Here’s the big problem, as described to me by an Uber driver, after I asked him if he ever felt bad for taking work from taxi drivers. According to him, the best technology always wins, which is why Uber was taking over, and in a few years, he wouldn’t have a job either thanks to driverless cars.
Shopping centers are also doomed thanks to online, and everything is already made overseas. So, if nobody is making, selling, or delivering anything, how many people does that leave with jobs and money to pay for anything?
The fact that he was smiling, while explaining he’d be soon be obsolete and society was going to collapse made me think he was either insane or doing something illegal, so I gave him five stars for the same reason I give every Uber driver five stars. Out of fear.
Then the next time you visit a shopping center, think of it like a living museum, and appreciate it for the same reason I appreciate inexpensive running water, The Footy Show, and disposable income. None of it will be around much longer.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.
His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.