IT WAS the best of times. It was the worst of times.
A girlfriends' Christmas shopping excursion to the redeveloped Pacific Fair at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast was filled with gob-smacking bargains, the usual dose of laughter and good food.
But after just under eight solid hours of splurging our hard-earned cash on gifts for others and buying breakfast and lunch plus coffee and cake, we were brought back down to earth at the parking fee machine: $40, thanks.
We were flabbergasted.
When we arrived at 9am, after the two-hour trip from Kawana Waters, we didn't realise parking fees had been introduced at "Pac Fair”.
With cars lined up behind us as our designated driver took the ticket on entry, we had but seconds to peruse the fee costs listed at the gate. First three hours free and increasingly incrementally was what we gathered was the deal.
Had we taken more notice, we would have tried backing up, parked outside and walked in.
We had encountered paid parking many times before at Westfield Chernside on our annual all-day shopping mission. But once you've spent $200 in a single day per car, you can validate your ticket and parking is free. That total is easy for us to spend!
Of course, both mega shopping complexes offer the first free hours of parking for free and movie-goer concessions: great for locals but useless for tourists and serious shoppers like us.
But what really left a bad taste in our mouth at Pacific Fair was that, after recovering from the shock of paying what we consider an exorbitant fee, we encountered the gate arm fixed in the open position on our exit, allowing all traffic to pass through for free.
We had been dudded $40 and we weren't the only ones.
For 364 days of the year, we shop locally (and extensively!). In the new year, Sunshine Plaza at Maroochydore will be introducing paid parking.
The first three hours will be free but after that, parking will begin to incur a fee starting at $2 per extra half hour to a total of $20 a day.
If you spend $150 at any of the shops, you can park free all day.
That's fine, but I still don't get that we have to pay for the privilege of helping retailers do what they are in the business of doing: trying their hardest to sell their goods to customers willing to part with their cash.
Maybe we'll all go back to shopping in our little corner stores, funky suburban boutiques, markets and unique and arty businesses on our coastal strips much more often in future.
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