In 2013, I fell in love with shopping malls again.
Like most, I first became enchanted in adolescence. Free time, spare money, a lack of of options…the mall was there for me.
Then university happened. Per Corinthians, I put away childish things. The mall was passé, what those *shudder* suburb kids did. And when you have a dorm and a cafeteria, who really needs a food court and wide, air-conditioned hallways?
But last year, I moved to an area far from artisanal cafés and high walkability scores. I now lived directly between two megamalls, and otherwise surrounded by highways, parks, and cul de sacs.
I needed malls again. And the malls, being malls, accepted me with cold, unfeeling, just-open-enough arms.
Because a mall does not judge. A mall does not cater. A mall does not change. A mall is a mall, slowly renovating or slowly decaying, never being more than exactly the sum of its parts.
So I’ve redeveloped an appreciation for the things malls inherently do well. An efficient place for me to do errands. An oasis of somewhat cheap food options. A reprieve from the rain.
Not among those things? Providing a valuable Twitter account.
True, in 2009 a law was passed that required every company to hire a social media manager. But if you can tell me why malls should tweet anything other than a) unexpected closures, b) responses to customer questions, c) really good sales at Store X or d) mall-wide promotions for Event Y, then I hear BCIT offers a wonderful marketing program.
And yet. A quick survey reveals that virtually every mall in Metro Vancouver has a Twitter account.
Which means they should be roundly mocked. Or at least ranked.
So without further adieu…
TIER 1: NOT TRYING
I’d like to think these places are taking a principled stand against the need to saturate their “brand” on every social media platform available. Don’t let me down by creating an account now, monolithic malls.
CRYSTAL MALL (Burnaby)
Given the state of Crystal Mall’s website, I think it’s just as well they don’t try and branch out.
CAPILANO MALL (North Vancouver)
If you search for North Vancouver’s largest mall on Twitter, only their dental facility shows up — and they haven’t tweeted for 16 months. Note: Knowing the date a nylon toothbrush was available for consumer use is not a “fun fact”, much less a #funfacts.
WILLOWBROOK SHOPPING CENTRE (Langley)
Tourism Langley is very sad it doesn’t have the city’s largest mall to interact with on Twitter.
ABERDEEN CENTRE (Richmond)
Come on Aberdeen! How is @Tasche_CJK going to promote you whlist he checks in on #Yelp if you don’t pull your weight?
TIER 2: BARELY TRYING
I get it, Richmond Centre. Playing the long game. Waiting to accumulate enough followers…and then Step 2 begins. And then…well…we’ll get back to you on that.
FYI, your avatar is allowed to take up the entire frame. And can be slightly more descript.
TIER 3: JUST SAD
Sinclair Centre has tweeted 87 times in 46 months, and is no closer to understanding why it has a Twitter account. The majority of their posts are simply links to Facebook photo galleries, and the account has gone 6+ months without tweeting on many occasions.
Good job, good effort, Sinclair Centre.
TIER 4: STILL LEARNING
@RoyalCityCentre (NEW WESTMINSTER)
Having just opened their Twitter account in the summer of 2013, you can expect some strange retweets from the Royal City while they get the hang of this.
They’re sort of going for the “Tweeting things around the mall and in the New West community” vibe, but there’s still a ways to go. We’ll check back with them in next month’s rankings*.
Central City Shopping Centre, or the Artist Formerly Known as the Surrey Place Mall, brands itself as “an award-winning facility where shopping, education and business converge for the first time.” Yet most of its tweets are Facebook links to an ongoing Mall contests or things happening in the Mall. Not a whole lot of convergence there, Central City.
TIER 5: NOT GETTING THE POINT
This section is a matter of objectivity, based mostly on whether you believe a mall’s Twitter account should have an artificial personality or not. Become some in Metro Vancouver do. And they irritate me.
I’m sorry, Oakridge, but what is the point of your background? If you were forced to explain it, and how it relates to an aging, multi-faceted mall catering to all of South Vancouver, could you?
Leaving aside the perceptive dissonance between Oakridge the Mall and Oakridge the Pretty Lady, their tweets are quite diverse, sometimes linking to its Instagram or Pinterest pages (good), sometimes talking about #TuesdayShoesday (which I’m now aware is a thing), and sometimes just tweeting pictures of celebrities wearing stuff (not good).
A good deal of this ranking comes from the background to the page and the background to the avatar. In the former, we see a well-dressed redhead getting out of a cab, only to see James Van Der Beek’s brother walking past, dressed to the eights. And in the latter, they are side by side, his hand on her hip, her jacket off, yet in the exact same place. Have they struck instant chemistry? Returned to the place where they first met? Was James Van Der Beek’s brother pretending not to notice her when she stepped out of the cab?
We’ll never know. What we do know is Pacific Centre likes hashtaging random #words, wishing John Legend a happy birthday, and asking people to RT strange things.
On the plus side, the background is pleasingly dull and not trying to cultivate any sort of laughably false image. On the minus, I could care less what a TV character from last decade once said. I’m not going to tell you my New Year’s plans. I’m not telling you where a good place for #brunch, let alone brunch, is. And I will never tell you via retweet what songs are on my Christmas playlist. You are a mall, not my friend, and you should stop it.
TIER 6: SO CLOSE, YET SO FAR
Guildford Mall is very active on Twitter, and most of the time, it sticks to retweeting things from its tenants, often preceded by some faux-enthusiasm. That’s good!
But sometimes, it will have opinions on holiday movies, plead for more followers, or tell people they’ll be keeping up on them while they travel to Turkey. That’s bad.
If I’m following a mall, I do not need it to do any of these things. For this, I blame “Shop Girl”, the “latte loving, deal finding, style maven” who ostensibly runs their account. You’ve been warned, Miss Girl.
Full Disclosure: I frequent Brentwood often. It’s bland, if basically competent. But I do not require a motivational quote from Margaret Woodhouse from them to kick off my week, thank you very much. Outside of the odd motivational quote or random fact, Brentwood brings the goods on Twitter. And by good, I mean bluntly stated, relevant information that may be of very slight interest to me.
TIER 7: BASIC COMPETENCY
@MetropolisatMet (AKA METROTOWN: BURNABY)
@shopparkroyal (WEST VANCOUVER)
@LTCshopping (LOUGHEED: BURQUITLAM (It’s a geographical designation when I want it to be))
I think we could function perfectly well in the world without mall twitter accounts, but as that seems impossible, these will do. They retweet things from their tenants, make announcements about mall-wide sales and events, and answer customer complaints. It’s not rocket science, but these accounts alone fulfill those needs in the Metro Vancouver area.
They win. Or would, if these didn’t exist.
TIER 8: THE PARODIES
Let’s be clear: 99% of parody accounts are awful, unoriginal, lowest common denominator drivel. Mostly because they’re not actually doing a parody of anything. They just make dumb jokes.
But these? Well, kudos, Vancouver. Your attempts at mall parody accounts are first-rate, finding the sweet spot between their inherent soullessness, the paradoxically chipper nature of corporate accounts, and the mediocracy of these particular outlets. Even better, these malls have no official accounts.
We start with the bronze medalist, a newcomer to this game.
@DenmanMall (WEST END)
The Denman Mall account is just two days old, but already has the melancholy oh-what’s-the-point tone appropriate for an aging mall in the West End with no destination shops. Why did it start so late? Does it matter? Just check out their dollar store and be done with it.
The silver medallist isn’t a Twitter account, but demands recognition.
TINSEL TOWN MALL (INSTAGRAM)
The only reason you go to the International Village Mall is to watch a critically acclaimed film that Scotiabank Theatre isn’t showing. There’s no other reason to go to a mall with a baffling layout, drab lighting, and sad, perpetually closing stores.
But it endures. And this blessed account is emblematic of that struggle.
However, there can only be one true champion of the Metro Vancouver Mall Parody account competition.
For those not acquainted with Vancouver and still reading 1500 words in, Kingsgate is smack dab in the most (2009 alert) “hipster” part of Vancouver. It’s also in a place where there’s constant pressure to redevelop. There’s no reason, logically speaking, why a mall should be there. Let alone a badly lit mishmash discount horror story of a mall that hasn’t given two cents since 1986.
It’s obvious why this account has quickly exploded in popularity. So much of social media are attempts by people to capture themselves as they want to be seen. @kingsgatemall reflects how people see it. And god bless for that.
A year ago Frances Bula, the Dean of Vancouver civic scene, responded to a person concerned that Kingsgate Mall would soon be torn down for the type of mixed-use condo-centred development that will soon rule us all. She assured the masses that such a move was not imminent, while also penning the loveliest of odes to the place:
“As Vancouver gets more and more shiny towers, I long for the old, dumpy Vancouver. Bring back the bedraggled CBC building that used to exist in some kind of sagging yellow building on Georgia somewhere around Bute. Bring back the Normandie on Granville and Bert’s on Main. Bring back the one-storey bungalows that are being torn down to make way for another hideous mauve cake-palace.Bring back the Chinese restaurants where the waitresses could hardly bring themselves to take your wretched order. Bring back the round-cornered yellow buses. The yellow buses with their orderly seats facing forward. Hardly any room to stand up. Sniffle.
So I have come to appreciate the homey feel of all of the Kingsgate mall, where you can still buy a pair of glitter-covered platform shoes with six-inch heels. And plastic flowers. And terrible, awful, hideous Canadian-made furniture. And a real bad-for-you hot dog, filled with nitrates, not one of those German things handcrafted by some retired investment banker. And the guys drinking outside on the sidewalk, out of paper bags (how delightfully quaint). As a friend of mine who moved into the neighbourhood once said, “It’s like a little piece of Trail right in the heart of Vancouver.”
Long live the King, Kingsgate. First in our hearts. First in parody accounts. And last in everything else.
*There are no further rankings