Living Large

Is bigger really better? David Volk looks at our urge to supersize everything Living Large

By David Volk

This ad, coming your way soon: “Get away from it all! Come relax with us at our super size, super crowded resort!”

Sound preposterous? Tell that to the folks who are busy pulling in crowds for experiences that have been enjoyed for many years in smaller, more intimate surroundings—until now.

In my mind, heading to a supersize, supercrowded resort isn’t any more far-fetched than heading to Tacoma for a relaxing treatment at the recently opened 10,000 square foot mega-spa, Avanti Spa. Or enjoying a nice, quiet game of pool in a 20,000-square-foot Bellevue billiard parlor, The Parlor Billiards & Spirits. Or getting to know your close friends better over a few frames at Tukwila’s new, upscale 50,000-square-foot bowling alley, Acme Bowling. Or beginning the week by renewing your intimate relationship with the almighty by attending services in an auditorium that seats 5,000 in a 250,000-square-foot megachurch, Overlake Christian Church.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no desire to make fun of the way someone prays, but I have to ask one simple question about the region’s on-going mega-fication of everything: Have we lost our minds?

Aside from the fact that bigger businesses are, well, bigger—is there any proof that bigger is actually better?

As the world’s giant retailers have proven, one of the great ironies of living in a service-based economy is that bigger doesn’t mean you’ll get any…service that is.

Sure, you can go to the big box store in the ‘burbs and spend less on that CD you’ve wanted for less than you’d pay at the local music store, or fly over to Fry’s and save a few shekels on that iPod you’ve been lusting after. You can even purchase paint, lumber and a refrigerator all at the same place, hours after Tweety & Pop or some other locally owned hardware store has closed. 

But here’s the catch: You better know what you want when you go in because you won’t find anyone to help you find it when you get there (let alone a cashier to take your money). Heck, I once spent 20 minutes at one of those places just trying to track down someone who could tell me where the bathroom was. Once directed, I still felt like I should have left a trail of breadcrumbs to help me find my way back.

I don’t know about you, but I can easily envision a sequel to ABC’s “Lost” that centers on a group of people trying to find the tools they need to escape Home Depot.

My objection to megafication isn’t the standard one about workers being underpaid and over-worked, or even the old saw about big businesses bullying out mom and pop shops. Instead, I’m concerned about the loss of local flavor that results with each mega-incursion.

I still prefer the Seattle’s fabled Dog House to the squeaky clean Cheesecake Factory. I would rather browse the aisles of Chubby ‘n’ Tubby than spend an afternoon playing hide-and-seek with the employees at G.I. Joe’s. And I still like buying produce at Pike Place Market more than from Whole Foods.

Of course, big isn’t always bad. In the time it has taken me to write this, my Laundromat’s monster dryer has sucked every drop of moisture out of my clothes. And if a mega-lane bowling alley means a shorter wait time for a lane, I’m all for it. Still, I’m not all that wild about waiting for weeks to talk to my favorite clergy.

And about that mega-spa? On its Web site,  Avanti Spa describes itself as “a quaint and European style village.” Comparitively speaking, this village sounds morelike a city, and when it comes to some things – like massages – I’d rather not have one in the middle of a town square.