Monday, December 1, 2008

Waterholes of fake stuff

Due to the fact that we have had visitors here since early Friday, I have been neglecting everything I normally do on wknds, including: running the Shanghai marathon/ writing loads of blog posts/ studying 100 new Chinese characters... (ehum. Yes, of course, EVERY SINGLE wknd) Instead, I have indulge in some serious eating, shopping, and bar hopping.

I guess it is quite lucky that not ALL of my friends from back home are attracted by China and want to visit. Because then I would probably ruin myself. U see, one of my problems is that when I see other people shop/ make clothes at the tailor market, I get so inspired that I want to buy/make things for myself too... and from there it normally just goes downhill. Anyways, this time I managed to control myself quite well, but I still came home with a new cardigan, top, dress.... as well as 68648763294868364 Christmas gifts (my friends, family and relatives are going to be spoiled this year!)

The only dark cloud on a (otherwise quite) clear blue sky, is the fact that visitors always wants to go to my center of dislike: the fake market on Nanjing Xi Lu. I don't know why, but every visitor that comes here seems to have this urge to see mass productions of fake LV handbags. In order to be a nice host we always end up going there, with me doing my best to try to ignore the sounds of people yelling 'bags, bags, watch, bags bags', lightly pulling my arm and pushing me towards their store. There are not words enough to express how much I despise fake gods (especially the handbags.. I get shivers every time I see a girl -or her boyfriend- walking around with a large bag on her/his shoulder that says 'PRADA' in big, bold letters so that everyone can see it. Who does s/he think s/he is kidding? Does ANYONE actually believe it is real these days??), so walking at this market is a kind slow torture to me. It's a shame as well that all those bloody bags have big brand names written all over them, because if they didn't some of them might have actually been nice. But I would never want to walk around with a fake Gucci, and I would never spend 649823648963 kuais on a real one either, so... I guess me luxury brands, fake or real, simply don't match.

But, being a nice travel host, I suffer in silence and make it my mission to make sure the visitor isn't paying too much. Crazy how hard it can be sometimes to get a low price at those places though?! I guess it has something to do with the fact that a conversation at the face market between a vendor and a tourist often goes something like this:

Tourist: Oh, how much is this Prada bag?
Vendor: It is real leather, and good quality... to other people I would sell it for (pushing her calculator for a while, with a concentrated, yet friendly face expression) this... (showing the calculator, which says 2,600 or something insane like that) but because you are such a beautiful lady (yeah, unless u didn't know.. all lao wais turn into 'beautiful ladies' at the fake market... I think they have actually called my bf/dad a 'beautiful lady' once too....) I will give you a special price... (plays with the calculator for a while again before she shows it)... here you go: 2000 kuai.
Tourist: That is too expensive..
Vendor: so you give me your best price, how much would you like to pay....?
Tourist (thinking desperately.. hm.. how much should I drop?? Didn't the guide book tell me something like 50-70%? But that is still quite expensive.. OK, I will try) How about 300?
Vendor: 300?! You must be joking! Lady! This is not possible. 300 is IMPOSSIBLE. You have to give me a little bit more, please... no joking! Come on, you are my friend... I can give you a special price like this... (calculator gets played with again), 1,500 kuai.

.....and you can just guess the rest.

The vendor drops a few hundreds and the tourist adds a few hundreds and they meet somewhere in between at 500 kuai! For some fake, shit, bag?! Insane!

So then when someone else comes and tried to buy it for 50 kuai (which is what I would say it would be worth), it really IS impossible to get it, as the vendors know they can sell it for a more expensive price to a tourist...

....Although who am I to complain? I have to say that I sort of admire those vendors for their patience, their ability to act really upset ('that is IMPOSSIBLE!!'), and the amount of running they do every day, especially when a customer tries the whole 'walk away method' in order to get her price, and the vendor has to run after the customer and tell her that 'OK, OK, you can get it'.

Yesterday we went to Hongqiao Pearl Market instead of the Nanjing market, as I was keen to see something new, and I have to say I felt a tad bit less worse than I normally feel at these markets. First of all, this market wasn't so crowded, and didn't have so much fake stuff, and a lot of the vendors where actually quite... normal?! Since I never shop at these places I see it as an opportunity to practice my Chinese with bored vendors waiting for customers, and I actually made a friend there yesterday. A cute young girl who told me about her dream of moving to Suzhou and opening a shop there. Once she realized I wasn't going to buy her fake Armani belts she relaxed a bit, went and got me a chair and then we sat and chatted for 30 minutes while my visitors engaged in a lot of haggling in some other shop. At the end we had exchanged phone numbers, cooking recipes and friendly pats on each other shoulders and I promised to come and visit soon again... as she promised she would never try to sell me one thing, ever. It was kind of cool.


flyingfish said...

I love it that you made friends with one of the vendors. Good for you! I hate shopping and get so annoyed by it that I don't even try to get to know people. How clever of you to think of it as a way to practice your Chinese and maybe even meet new friends. Now maybe the next time someone drags me shopping I will be inspired to do the same!

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

That post exactly sums up my thoughts!

I super duper hate this fake markets and it have pretty much completely made me stop buying any kind of "expensive" brands. More people should know that every chinese city got a lot of awesome small shops on the street selling extremely nice clothes just as cheap as all the markets, but without the Prada and Gucci logoes. Sadly few foreigners ever go to these kind of shops.

Emil said...

Thank you!

That post exactly sums up my thoughts!

I super duper hate this fake markets and it have pretty much completely made me stop buying any kind of "expensive" brands. More people should know that every chinese city got a lot of awesome small shops on the street selling extremely nice clothes just as cheap as all the markets, but without the Prada and Gucci logoes. Sadly few foreigners ever go to these kind of shops.

Anonymous said...

"Didn't the guide book tell me something like 50-70%?"

where can i find a guide book like this?

Josh said...

I love your dialogue! That's pretty much it, word-for-word. It's like they have a script or something.

I rarely ever go shopping in places like those, but when I do I never allow the seller to make a price quote first. I begin a little lower than what I think it's worth and then work from there. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Of course, all this really does is eliminate the first part of your dialogue...they still put on their shocked and "are you crazy?" act anyway. You can only handle so much of that, you know?

shopgirl shanghai said...

haha, that's great! I made a friend with my local hairdresser once.

Anonymous said...

I only found your blog a few days ago, it's really interesting to read!
Spooky, I was also in Hongqiao market yesterday!! It's definately calmer there, less hassle. Did you manage to get anything interesting there?

Jonna Wibelius said...

flyingfish -yeah, chatting to the vendors is a lot more fun than shopping from them!! Try :)

Emil -glad to hear I am not the only one with this, kind of cynical, idea of the fake markets.. I really agree with you: there are so many lovely shops in Chinese cities that people miss out on simply coz they are too busy filling their suitcases with fake Gucci shirts... they don't know what they r missing out on!

anonymouse: ask google! Travel guides often include haggling tips :)

Josh -I figured many people would recognize that dialouge. U haven't really been to CHina unless you've had it... Sad but true!!

shopgirl -yeah, hairdressers are also common victims for my chit-chatting.

Anonymouse -hah, funny that u were there too! What did u buy? I found the market quite nice! I bought some bracelets from the 2nd floor as well as some rings... quite a good place! They had so many different things, so u can def spend a lot of time there. My visitors are going back already today!! Haha!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it was really good there! I got a nice woolly scarf because it's getting cold in Nanjing, and on the second floor I got some pearls (it's so exciting as I've never owned pearls before!) and the lady who sold it to me gave me some pearl earrings for freeeeee :-D

sarah said...

Just a repeat of what Josh said, that dialog is dead on. I recently went to the silk market in Beijing and it went exactly like that. They seriously need to send acting talent scouts to these places!