Thursday, May 06, 2010

Dinosaurs in the Real World

Tonight we went to a Hollywood Video that was going out of business. I don't know when the last time we'd gone to a Hollywood Video. I know we'd gone to Blockbuster a few times a few years ago, we had some free rentals. But it was rare that we paid for movies. Often we get them from the library and we've also got some swell friends who pass their Netflix off to us asking us not to take too long before dropping it back in the mail.

If you know my history, you know I want to see Lackluster Video die. I want it to go down in flames. Well, no, that's not true. I want to be extinguished quietly without anyone really noticing.

But I never really thought about collateral damage, like Hollywood Video. Now, I know there's no crying shame for it to go, either, but I liked it for the fact that it wasn't Blockbluster. Of course, we still didn't go there because it was farther away from the other and they didn't give us lots of free coupons. Of course, free coupons doesn't help them all that much, either.

But in a world with Netflix, iTunes, OnDemand, Hulu, RedBox and just the internet in general, do we really need big stores to heat and cool and pay staff and electricity and health insurance and stuff? If you're a teenager, sure, it's an easy gig. It was even an easy gig for someone in their 20s trying to supplement a burgeoning career. If you're a landowner, sure.

The weird thing is that when I go into the grocery store, I still often see lines at their video rental counter. Really? I'm not even sure if they're renting DVDs, I wouldn't be surprised if they're still renting out VHS tapes.

But do we really need these big wastes of space? No, not really. I'm curious to see what will go in go into this spot. Since it's part of the Fred Meyer (which has one or two RedBoxes or MovieCubes), you know it won't be something tacky like a nail salon or something. Maybe a diner or something cool.

But it really got me thinking. Video stores are just the start. What else will we see go away? A big one, obviously, is gas stations. Gas stations are a horrible drain on our landscape. They take the prime corner lots, are low impact, and sell an awful product and an awful delivery method. I'm still unfortunately beholden to big oil. I read once that five of the ten largest companies in the world are oil companies and another three were car manufacturers. There's gotta be something monopolistic about that. If the car companies could eliminate the oil companies, that would make them all the more important to the world economy. Of course, they've squandered that. And imagine if oil companies would be gone. Far fewer targets for Somali pirates. No need for oil platforms off the coast that can explode and sink and allow oil to seep from the ground.

But even if you just think of your own city, imagine the blight that would go away if the corners weren't filled with low-density gas stations. Imagine the cool new things you could see on corners, whether they were retail, housing or maybe some old school drive-in diners? Fred Meyer also has a gas station in its parking lot. It's off the main drag, hidden at the back. It's not a blight and it's a place many people are already going. Plus, you get money back. It's where I always go. And now it's always crowded. I wouldn't be surprised if it puts some corner gas stations out of business. For all the convenience of a corner, so many in our town are not that convenient because the streets are so crowded that it's hard to get in or out of those gas stations and when exiting, it often puts you on roads you don't want going directions you don't want.

But why stop there? Another often wasted corner is the bank. Besides businesses who need a place to deposit money, do we really need bank branches? I will grant that not everyone is online yet, but most people are. For those that aren't, bank branches inside existing stores makes more sense. But for the most part, there are very few times these days where you need the services of an actual branch. Maybe a cashier's check or something. But these days, we do everything online. It's almost entirely electronic. We get a generous number of ATM withdrawals where our bank covers and surcharges automatically, the paycheck is direct deposit, most of our outbound (mortgage, church tithe, HOA dues) is automatically sent each month, most of our bills and recurring charitable contributions are charged to a credit card (and we have a scheduled payment to one of the credit cards each month, too), the homeowner's insurance, car insurance, etc., are all automatically deducted from our account. Very few things actually require us to do anything manually, and even then, we can schedule a one-time payment online or write a check. Even cash is a rarity.

What else? What other stores will soon be antiquated?
Post a Comment