Monday, January 07, 2008

Shopping in China

"Hello! Postcards?"

"Hello! Rolex?"

"Hello! 100 yuan!"

Fuck it. I don't want to write too much. I need to apply to some jobs, study Japanese, and finish watching season 18 of The Simpsons.

Here's how to shop in China. Decide before you go how many fake Rolex watches, Louis Vuitton handbags, and North Face jackets you want. Make a list of people you will get cheap jade bracelets for. Get your shopping done asap, then enjoy the scenery. While the group I was with shopped for another 3 hours for the same shit we shopped for for 3 hours the day before, I climbed a mountain, saw a dragon parade, and got shooed away from a dog meat salesman for taking pictures. There's too much to see to waste it shopping.

If you want real products, it's the same price anywhere else in the world. Do the conversion to dollars or pounds or yen and you'll see. The idea that since it's made in China you can buy it cheap in China is a myth.

This shop sells A-grade fakes. Fakes are graded A, B, and C. An A grade Rolex will probably cost you about $50. A C grade (which I got on the street) costs about $2.

Columbia or North Face. A fake waterproof jacket will run about $20. Look closely at this photo.

Bags bags bags. I guarantee when you get back to your hotel room you will find more flaws than you thought there were. But are cheap fakes really that bad? Living in Japan, where underage girls go on "compensated dating" with older men in order to buy this crap, I don't think cheap fake is that bad.

Foreigners get into a frenzy with the bargaining system here. It's stupid. You haggle and haggle and haggle over junk. Other people in my group were visually jealous when I got a Rolex for 20 yuan after they had just paid 40. I know that haggling is normal in many cultures, but I just feel bad when I spend 5 minutes trying to get a 70 year old woman to sell me some jade for 50 cents less than she offered. Only when I turn and walk away does she agree to my price. It seems belittling in a way.

The second part of shopping in China was "factories". The tour guides would take us to a "jade factory" or "pearl factory" to learn how this stuff is made. We would get a 4 minute demonstration, then cute little Chinese women would flock from hidden doors to hound us into buying. We were left to our defenses for about a half an hour while the tour guides hoped for a commission. Shady, yes. Lame, yes. Fuck that shit, yes.

But it's educational! You learn about silk rugs. Let's see who's ears are perked.

At least at one we got to sample different tea.

What "factories" did we go to? Pearl factory, Jade factory, Silk factory, Cashmere factory, Tea Ceremony factory. No Chinese rice wine factory. No fake clothing factory with child workers. If they would have thrown some shit like that in I would have been extremely satisfied.

Maybe I'm just bitter because the one thing I wanted, a stuffed Haibao, the mascot of the 2010 World Expo, was only sold in Beijing.

Next: Happy 2008, a week later

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