Two things about shopping in China:
1. Call them myopic, but a lot of Chinese vendors don’t seem to see the big picture. For example, given the choice of ripping off the buyer to get a good price right there and then, or trying to build a relationship with someone who could give them custom for years to come, they’ll take the instant gratification nine times out of nine. And instead of working with a buyer to find what might make them really happy - what retailers know as the building-a-relationship-with-the-client strategy - they tend to believe more in the THAT-THING-THERE-RIGHT-NEXT-TO-YOU-THE-FIRST-THING-YOU-CAME-PAST-IN-MY-SHOP-AND-SO-NOW-BUY- IT-GIVE-ME-MONEY-GET-OUT-OF-MY-SHOP theory.
2. The Chinese people don’t want you to feel foolish. This could mean a loss of face. So whatever you try on, if you imply that you like it, they’ll gush and ooh and aah about how good it looks on you in a bid to snap shut the deal. This could involve you wearing anything from a baseball cap to a feather boa last seen on Elton John. The vendors are not sure if we really like things or not. For, like that old warning about snakes being more frightened of you than you of them, the Chinese feel it is we, Johnny Foreigner and Wilma Whitewoman, who are inscrutable.*
As is often the case in journalism, only one thing is clear. And that is that these two things combined can only add up to one thing: There is a real danger of shoppers walking out of a market looking ridiculous, particularly if you’re a man who doesn’t care much about how he dresses any more, or, put another way, who is married. You know how bars can be charged for sending people away extremely drunk? Alas there seem no such laws stopping retailers sending people out of their shops looking like complete idiots.
Occasionally I like to put all this to the test, particularly if – and this can really happen sometimes – I’m out shopping with my wife and I start to show symptoms that I’m really, really bored.
Just such a thing happened when I accompanied the said Leader of the Opposition on an expedition to buy glasses. While she was trying on what seemed 1000 pairs of glasses, but was probably only in the low hundreds, I intrepidly launched a proper journalistic investigation dubbed the HOW STUPID DO I HAVE TO LOOK IN GLASSES BEFORE SOMEONE SAYS ANYTHING sting.
Warning: The results are shocking and some readers might be disturbed by them. But we present them here as a warning to wives everywhere behind the Bamboo Curtain.
|"Very handsome!" I was told. I then began to sing|
Crocodile Rock and was told I sounded "very handsome".
|"These suit your face very well", I was told.|
I asked the assistant if she was sure, and
was told "very much so".
I decided it was time to up the ante ...
|Finally, we had a winner. I put these on and|
while she ummed and ah'ed at first, the
assistant eventually suggested these might not
be the soundest purchase I could make.
My quest was at an end.
Finally, I returned home with the pair I was allowed to buy.
|They might have been from the men's or|
women's section. Again, with the vendors
here it doesn't really matter. At least I was
convinced I looked like a habitual winner.
Thanks for tuning in readers. Next week we'll continue our Shopping in China series with a special report: How to spot a conterfeit Bentley. See you then!
* The Chinese also think we Caucasians all look the same as well. Seriously. But since this is Photo Phun Phursday, I'll save that for Sweeping Generalisation Saturday.