#25 – Totally Clueless (About Shopping)

Canada as a whole is terrible at shopping. We’ve sort of talked about this before with Tim Hortons and the Hudson’s Bay Company, and I think I’ve made a couple of allusions to the parking lagoons incumbent to the North American shopping mall too. What I haven’t talked about is how impossibly shitty Canadian shopping malls are. Selling a smaller bundle of goods than available in the United States for more than the costs of those same items in the United States, Canadian malls are monstrous concrete boxes of mediocrity. They are indeed manifestations of an almost Herculean boredom that rings through Canada and a profound lack of choice that permeates Canadian consumer culture. Lacking the thoughtfulness of the new American mall and the walkable urban design choices of many European malls, Canadians experience the ass-crack of mall shopping in a way that limits their consumer choice and ignores local needs.

The average Canadian shopping mall looks like a cross between a Soviet bunker and the capital of a shitty tween dystopian fiction novel. But that’s hardly the shittiest thing about them. Recall that Canada is run by oligarchic companies and shadowy figures – we have to look for the losers behind the tinsel if we’re going to find some guilty parties. Let’s take a look at this list of the most profitable malls in Canada. Do you see the “CF” in front of four of them? That stands for Cadillac Fairview, a company owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Their major competition in Ontario, the Oxford Properties Group, is owned by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. Both companies are aiming at luxury brands that Canadians widely can’t afford as their future. Because actually being a part of the “community” that the drab mall in all likelihood destroyed is for squares. Stores that people can actually afford can get fucked – move over for more shit you can’t afford, plebian scum!

Because the shopping areas of Canada are built as investment vehicles rather than as parts of the communities that they actually inhabit and because the traditional main streets that typically house luxury brands are too shitty in most Canadian cities, the ultra-luxe are increasingly taking over malls. The problem with that is that in so doing they’re completely ignoring nearby neighborhoods. By way of example, take the Rideau Center. This hunk of shit is immediately next to the University of Ottawa, a 40,000+ student institution that both utterly sucks and has thousands of students living nearby. Obviously the Caddy-Company sees this and has responded with stores that totally reflect the nearby community. I know for my part that choosing from Canada’s many shitty university options was much easier when I filtered by access to Tiffany’s. Back in the day I worked in the Rideau Center, but I and most students simply aren’t qualified to sell luxury brands we’ve never heard of. So neither the potential labor nor the potential customer base appealed to Cadillac-Fairview because why care about local context, right?

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(s) The new classroom for ECO 1011: Introduction to Getting Fucked

Disconnected from their environments and often built in horrible, useless places the shopping mall is a classic case of short-term planning taking precedence over the needs of people nearby. And where this was a common theme in North America the Americans have recognized the problem, considered the nearby environment, and are acting in a big way to try to redesign the badly-built urban spaces of the shopping mall while Canada…tries desperately to upscale the problem and ignore the root of the problem. Dubai without shopping is boring as shit, and that’s where Canada’s oligarchic mall owners appear to think the future is. Put it this way – the folks at Cadillac-Fairview, RioCan, Oxford – they all think that the people living near malls are less economically useful and less deserving of nearby brick-and-mortar consumer choice than luxury shoppers from elsewhere. Just like Abu Dhabi does! Hooray!

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