pay attention to details when shopping...
I paid a visit to Watson yesterday, and decided to buy myself a body scrub. Like always, I paid little attention to which one I chose, and went up to the counter to pay. Once it was my turn the shop assistant behind the counter grabbed the body scrub from my basket and looked at her colleague who also looked at the scrub.
-Isn’t that the scrub that we have a special promotion on right now? Said the colleague in Chinese to the shop assistant. You buy one and you get one free?
-Yeah it is, said the girl holding the scrub in the hand. But I mean.. she’s a laowai, how would she know?
-Oh, so you’re not going to tell her?
-Well….? The shop assistant shrugged her shoulders, so I decided it was time to step in.
-Buy one get one for free you said? Well then I should go and get myself another one immediately!
Oh the long faces of the girls behind the counter.
-She understands!!! Said the colleague. The shop assistant holding the scrub in her hand said nothing, just stared at me, wide-eyed.
When I came back, waving my additional, free scrub to her she still looked kind of shocked. Almost as if she wasn’t expecting me to come back with the right thing.
-I don’t want to miss out on free gifts! I said.
The colleague giggled, while the shop assistant who put it in my bag said nothing.
Now, it was ‘just’ a body scrub this time, but oh my oh my….! I am SO HAPPY that I understand Chinese. Think of all the things you might miss out on ‘just because you’re a laowai’ and because you don’t understand the language otherwise?
It’s actually funny, because not all Watsons are like the one I visited yesterday. I remember when I first came to Shanghai, and visited a Watson to get some paper napkins (you always have to carry around your own paper over here… as public toilets are non-paper-equipped). I grabbed a big pack of napkins and walked over to the counter to pay, when a shop assistant came running after me with another large package, trying to get me to take that one too.
I was clueless and confused, I had no idea what she was telling me (in Chinese of course, which I by then didn’t understand one iota of!) and got annoyed when she kept handing me an additional package of napkins.
-No no, it’s OK! I just want to buy one! I said. But just like my Chinese was zero, her English was zero, and as a result we just stood there, pushing a large package of paper napkins at each other.
It took another shop assistants assistance before the situation was resolved. She spoke a little bit of English and came up to me, dragged me back to where I had grabbed the paper napkins from, pointed at a promotion sign that had some Chinese character that I didn’t understand and said:
-Buy one. One free.
Big, relief-sigh from me, and the two shop assistants. And I thanked the persistent lady running after me with the free package of napkins at least 4 times.
But it’s obviously not always that you’re this ‘lucky.’ And then it’s quite nice to know your Chinese. At least I never get bored of 'shocking' people here.