Ten Years On, Am I The Only One Who Doesn't 'Get' The Dundrum Centre?
The Dundrum Town Centre turns ten years old this week. Weird, right? Doesn't that make you feel old? Or do you care? Do you even go there anymore?
Whether or not you shop there, it's been an eventful decade at Dundrum. Vacant spaces have filled out with over 100 shops and 34 restaurants. More than 70 million people have passed through. It has won copious awards. It was flooded, then it was invaded by Jedward fans (it survived both).
This year its loans were sold off to NAMA, and now they're preparing to sell them on for over €1bn.
And most poignantly of all, Tesco stopped opening 24 hours a day, meaning no more drunk, giggly post-club visits in the early hours on the way home, running around the aisles reading the backs of cereal boxes.
Dundrum has become 'Ireland's largest premier retail and leisure destination', but to me it still feels like an airport. But then I never found Dundrum Town Centre especially lovable to begin with. Baffling Hollister sale posters and 'whimsical' decorations leave me cold. The place has always felt clinical and curiously numbing to me, designed for someone else's idea of fun.
And I probably know the place better than most; I used to work there. I suspect a lot of Dubliners from a certain generation did. I spent nine months as a beauty counter girl selling on commission, one of those rabid, fanatical salespeople who talks you into parting with upwards of €100 for a few pots of shimmery powder and some skin cream.
My job was to get as many customers in the chair as possible, demoing endless expensive products, delivering a spiel about 'radiance boosting' and 'long-wearing finish', and hamming it up at the part about the apparently life-threatening parabens in other brands' products (to this day I have no idea what parabens are, except that our products were free from them). If we gave the sales pitch enough, we would believe. In the product, in the price, and in the Dundrum shopping centre.
Of course, few customers spent the money our sales targets demanded: women made excuses, backed away from our promises and free samples. One time I approached a pair of elderly ladies for a free demo and one of them gave me the finger, then they hobbled away on their zimmerframes. On weekends, school girls would move through the shop in predatory packs, a travelling cloud of fake tan and laundry-fresh Hollister. They'd swatch the glittery products on their hands, but they saved their money for Eddie Rockets.
On breaks I'd walk around the main hall, rarely having felt so lost in the world. My commission got less and less as I lost enthusiasm for the job and my surroundings. The centre was overwhelming: I saw my own exhaustion reflected in the eyes of staff, of customers, anyone left in the store at 10pm wandering zombie-like from floor to floor. Eventually, as so many do with retail jobs, I gave up and found something different to do.
Dundrum aimed to capture the experience of Celtic Tiger hedonism, but instead it has turned into an oversized time capsule. One from back when it seemed like a good idea to wear oversized polo logo shirts and drive around shrieking 'AFFLUENCE' from car windows.
One that many of us don't buy anymore. One most of us would rather forget.