I Don’t Shop Downtown Any More. . . .

Mamacita says:  I love to shop downtown in almost any small city; the stores are unique and delightful and it’s fun to walk around the square and buy from actual people instead of conglomerates and the parking is so convenient – right by the front door, in many cases – unless there are parking meters, in which case I don’t shop there at all.

This is the direct opposite of a "welcome" sign.

I hate to penalize a local merchant for a bad marketing decision made by others, but my budget is super limited, my knees are super bad, a parking garage is super inconvenient and usually too far from the actual shops for even a minimally handicapped person, and somehow, even though I know it’s not the merchants who thought up the idea of discouraging people like me from handing over my money to their shops, the very idea of a town board deciding to charge me to patronize its businesses infuriates me to the point that I just won’t do it. Besides, I seldom carry cash or change, and I don’t shop often enough to warrant buying a pass.

I guess those lovely downtown squares lined with local stores and meters that require money just for the privilege of parking aren’t meant for the likes of me any more. And I miss them. You people who can afford to spend a few hours parked downtown for a fee can have my spot. I’ll shop locally in towns that appreciate people who patronize their local stores and wouldn’t dream of making people pay just to park near the door. I can see fining people for leaving a vehicle in a prime spot for more than two hours, but for people like me, who shop for an hour or so at a time? Not happening.

I’ve accepted the fact that this town’s downtown square isn’t interested in customers like me, and doesn’t give two hoots in a hot place about people like me. Fair enough. I’ll shop elsewhere.

Item: My home town has no parking meters. They used to, which is why I got out of the habit of shopping on the square there, but they don’t now and haven’t for years so maybe it’s time to do some local shopping again. I work 20 or so miles away, though, and the downtown up there has beautiful, fascinating shops that really interest me, and I would love to patronize some of those lovely stores downtown, but there are those dreadful meters, so no.

Yes, yes, I know I talk about how much I hate parking meters every few months, and people try to apply logic to the town’s decision and try to explain to me the reasons, but I’m not buying it. Those reasons truly do not apply to me. Nope, I don’t buy it. Just as I’m not buying any merchandise or food at their downtown, either.

It’s obvious that towns like this do not miss my business and are, in fact, not even interested in my business, so there we are: impass.

I have to drive through the downtown square to get to work, and I used to love that – the square is always beautifully decorated. In summer, window boxes of climbing petunias are breathtaking and I can even smell their fragrance as I wait for the stoplight whilst not pulling over to shop. At holiday time, the square is aglow with twinkling lights. The beauty and magnetism of this downtown square makes me hate the meters even more. I would love to be welcomed at these stores, but I’m not.

So, I keep on driving until I’m at work, and after work I stop at Kohl’s where customers are welcomed and the parking is free. Given a real choice, I’d prefer to give my money to a local business, but the local business’ location takes most of it before I can even walk through a door to a store.

I bet it wasn’t the merchants who decided the downtown should have parking meters. Most shops – the savvy ones, anyway – almost always have a website, and truth be told, that’s how I do most of my shopping these days. No store is too small; all businesses need a website so crabby people like me can shop at midnight in pajamas.

But I really miss walking around a busy downtown square, stopping in at various shops and making small purchases. I miss the local restaurants; their food is always far superior to chain restaurants.

This used to be my favorite downtown restaurant, but I don't go there any more.

This used to be my favorite downtown restaurant, but I don’t go there any more.

But ten dollars to feed the meter to insure I’ll have enough time to limp around to a few stores before limping back to feed the meter again?

It’s just not in my budget. But then, isn’t attracting people richer than I am the whole purpose of parking meters? I mean, someone like me, making small purchases, isn’t going to make a store rich.

But if I like your store, I’ll come back and bring my rich friends. As things stand, I won’t even come to your store the first time, and my rich friends won’t ever know you exist.

So install your parking meters. I’m sure all the college-town doctors and lawyers and hipsters don’t feel the burn, and they’ve got plenty of money to spend.

I don’t. What little I have, I wish I could spend in your store, but someone’s decision has rendered that impossible.

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