Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Must do for a "tough" laowai: nag, be a bit rude and not swallow everything hook, line and sinker

Yeah, I'm such a tough cookie... (geeez... NOT!)

Yesterday I went to pick up the dress I ordered for my ‘bride’s maid part’ on my sisters upcoming wedding. It was absolutely perfect: blue, flattering, tight at the right spots, correct length (I can’t do long dresses) and so on, but then I tried it on and realized that the tailor must have forgotten that I actually have some curves, and hadn’t made enough room for my chest. I could wear it and it looked perfect, but it was fairly uncomfortable and a bit hard to breathe once the zipper was pulled up.

Five Chinese women (shop assistants as well as customer) gushed around me, but my friend Willing (who’s Indonesian, so everybody always thinks that she’s Chinese and that she’s my translator) saw the pain in my eyes.

-You’ve made it too tight, I complained. I cannot breathe in this!
-Oh of courses you can! It looks good!
Said one.
-It’s just the first time when you are trying it on. It will expand, (!?) said another.
-It should be tight otherwise it will fall off! Said a third.

But I wasn’t that easy to convince. When they realized that I really wanted them to make some more boob-room, the attitude changed:

-Well we don’t change dresses here, you can find a tailor from the street! Mei ban fa! (there’s no way!)
-Yeah, it’s just a small change but we don’t do it… Just go to another shop and ask.
-It won’t be expensive, they can probably change it for you for 20 yuan!

I felt my face getting more and more red (partly because the dress was so tight and partly because I was angry at their lame excuses).

-Listen, I’ve paid a lot of money for this dress and I am not leaving until you have fixed it for me. What is this bulls*** you are telling me? I am not going to use an outside tailor! Of course you are going to help me, this is your problem as much as it is mine!

The whole shop fell silent, and then one girl finally got up, asked me to follow her to the third floor where she pushed me into a small room that had a sewing machine (ta daaaaa!), pulled the dress of my body and started cutting it.

-We normally don’t do this… she said.
I said. So I really appreciate your effort (and the sewing machine is just there for decoration?)

Downstairs were Willing with the other ladies.

-That laowai is pretty tough! One woman told Willing. She just wouldn’t leave like they normally do. (“Like they normally do….” What the f***!)
-Well, of course she wouldn’t, said Willing. First you have to change her dress.
-Yeah but… normally laowais listen. She wouldn’t listen.
-… because you were lying to her!
Said Willing (I love how Willing always steps into the ‘translator part’).

20 minutes later my dress had magically gotten some new boob-space and I was smiling like a sun. Again, a classic example where ‘mei you ban fa’ (there is no way!) turns into a solution within only 20 minutes and some nagging. If I’ve learned anything from China it is to nag! Nodding, saying ‘OK’ and being grateful gets you nowhere. And only results in beautiful dresses that are too tight to wear…

(Ps. After my dress incident I had a lovely day at the wedding street, running in and out of shops, trying on one cup-cake dress after another… I know this has to stop, since I am not even close to getting married, but it’s simply irresistible to resist! I also ended up ordering myself 2 more dresses, and one for my mom. Not wedding dresses, just short ones, this time making sure the tailor would take not of the fact that I am not pancake-flat).

These pictures doesn't do the dress justice, but will have to do for now. I'll try it on tonight and maybe add some shots of me wearing it later... Cute, huh?

Gotta love the bow!


Little Tiger said...

Stunning!. Out of interest how much did you pay for it?
Good on you for sticking to your guns. I tried it once at a hotel who wouldn't change foreign currency to RMB because I wasn't a guest. I even asked for the manager, trying to prove to a recent arrival to China that if you push you can overcome a 'mei ban fa'.....but to no avail. So I got back in my box and from then on took a 'mei you' or 'mei ban fa' as such and never hassled any unfortunate Chinese sales assistant again. :)

Anonymous said...

Nagging. Ok. This is noted! I will know what to do next time I go to China!! Thanks :D

flyingfish said...

OH, Jonna, I bet you look a dream in that!

Congratulations on getting them to change their tune. If customers refused to let purveyors get away with this crap any more, they wouldn't keep pulling it. So, you've done your part for the rest of us. Now, go wear the hell out of that dress and have fun!

Pingu said...


maybe that's why i always get nagged by my parents...?

Emmy said...

My husband is great at getting what he wants it retail situations. He has even been offered a job by several sales people after he negotiates a lot. Me, well sometimes I am good sometimes I chicken out. Good for you!

Carl said...

Wow! I'm really glad you held your ground, Jonna. Hopefully if they get enough lessons, it will help to teach them about customer service... even for "laowai".
Hmmm... what's with the bow saw in the photo? Or maybe that is a sign of toughness? Will you carry a bow saw with you to your next dress fitting? :D

michelle said...

Like you, I just don't leave the store, office, department, wherever! until they find a 'banfa'. It is amazing how they always find one when 5 minutes ago there was no solution.

The Candid Yank said...

aw, that dress is lovely, and will totally complement your skin and hair color :)

man you are a tough cookie. I don't know what I would have done in the situation... cried, or threatened to sue or something i.e. actions that would not have fixed the situation. Good for you!

p.s. but i still can't believe how horribly those ladies behaved. It really makes you wonder what the inside of a someone's brain looks like, when they truly believe that everyone who doesn't look like them is a f***ing idiot. Sad.

Brad Farless said...

That is a really cute dress Jonna.

Good for you for standing up to them and telling them to do their job right. I hate when I pay someone to do something and they half-ass it, or don't want to fix a mistake they made.

Laowais usually just leave? What kind of push-overs have been in there? That's ridiculous.

Jonna Wibelius said...

So glad that a lot of u liked the dress!!!

Little tiger -yeah, I am totally in love w it! I wanna wear it all the time... I just love wearing dresses in general and this one is a bit special.. although I totally overpaid for it... I am ashamed to admit that I paid 400 kuai! Then I saw it in several other shops (not as 'cup-cake-like' as mine, but similar ones) for 150-200 kuai! Ahhhh... I have learned my lesson.. never be too eager. Still happy with how it turned out though, but since I overpaid that's one of the reasons why I refused to leave before they fixed it up for me.

Kanmuri -yeah. nag and insist no matter what they say. There is normally a 'banfa' (a way...) when r u coming here next?!?

Flyingfish -thanks!! :) I'll def wear the hell out of that dress, hahahaha! I wish the wedding was sooner... :)

Pingu -maybe... I hope u don't tell them 'mei you ban fa' too often...?! ;)

Emmy -wow! That's so cool w your hubby, he must be amazing!!! Trust me, I was a total chicken before I come to China.. but now I have learned to be a little bit more persistent to get my way. Takes time though...

Carl -haha, the bow saw in the photo isn't really related to this post.. I just wanted a photo of myself where I looked a bit intimidating.. as u all can tell, I don't have any photos like that. This photo is from last Xmas in Swe when I went out to forest to chop down a Xmas tree.

Michelle -good for you! I am glad to hear I am not the only 'pain-in-the-a**' laowais around here! Haha... yeah, I have def become much more of a 'nagging bitch' lately... but it works wonders, so why not?! :)

Des -3 years ago I probably would have cried too.... Glad u like the dress :)
The way those ladies behaved is actually quite interesting.. it is always the same when u order clothes over here, go and pick it up, and the sales person notice that u r not 100% satisfied... then s/he and 726487623 other people suddenly gather around you, telling you how beautiful the garment is, how well it fits you, that any 'faults' is 'meant to be so' etc etc... It's quite intimidating to oppose them at that point, and like I said, some years ago I alway ended up losing in that sort of situation. nowadays, however, I can see through their situation. The more they tell me it's beautiful, the more I start to doubt them... if it is so 'amazingly beautiful' that they are saying, I should be able to see it myself, right?!

Brad F -thanks! :) Yeah, apparently a lot of laowais gets pushed over... I used to be one of them.

Pingu said...

i always tell them 'mei shi', 'mei wen ti' etc :p

Anonymous said...

Actually this is the same all world over. I'm Chinese living in UK for many years. Last year, my GPS bought in Halford a few months ago had a problem with the power cord. I went back to Halford to ask for a new power cord. The shop assistant said that I should phone the manufacturer myself as the warrantee is with the manufacturer. I would have go away and just do that a few years back. In fact I nearly decided to go. But I remember I read somewhere that the "consumer act" says the shop is responsible for the quality of the goods they sold as well. So after debating with myself for a few moment, I said I want the shop to sort it out for me. The shop assistant then told me that will cost me ~£30, i.e. I have to buy a new power cord from them. That really got me going. I told him that I want to return the whole thing then and get a full refund, as the consumer act said blah, blah, blah... The shop assistant went to get their manager, and he promised the replacement power cord will arrive to my house in a week's time. So yeah, persistence and nagging works anywhere. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I am always amazed at how little Chinese people (Mainland Chinese to be exact) in general understand the importance of brand name and customer service. In China, customers oftentimes have to argue with service providers to get services that people in a free market economy would take for granted. Last summer I was in China for 10 days visiting my parents and friends, as I am originally from China. After having lived in America for 20 years, I am so used to customer service where service providers actually use their brain instead of by some ridiculous rules. Needless to say, I was so frustrated in China last summer with customer-no-service. Then on the way back to America, I stopped by HK and Taiwan for a week. As I got out of Taipei International Airport in Taiwan, I hailed a cab for myself, but still felt like I was in China, anticipating customer-no-service to happen any minute. Big coastal cities in Mainland are almost as nice on the surface as Taipei. But as soon as I got on the cab, I was surprised to find a total different people with much better services, and the feeling was like waking up from a dream. It was good to see the friendly cab driver, helpful and friendly people, and yes, buying dresses and suits in a tailor-made shop in Taipei. Shop owner and employees were very eager to please, which is so unlike their Mainland counterpart.

China is still growing, but it has grown so fast in the last 3 decades that they have not been able to digest everything new that they have been exposed to, like customer service. The Chinese people were completely isolated from the rest of the world for over 3 decades from 1949 through early 1980s When a country was closed for so long, their people have missed out too much. It would take another 2 decades for many basic things, especially in the service arean, to seep in and take root in their collective business mind.

Pete In Syracuse said...

It always amazes me that people in the sales business have horrorible sales skills. It might be those other people that rake the sales people for all they are worth, that give these sales people zero moving skills in trying to please the customer. I hate getting into those types of battles when it's so obvious who is right!
You Go Jonna - Mighty dress defender of the perfect fit!!

Blank-Socrate said...

Lovely dress :)

Phoenixkidd said...

Hillarious, I would love to see you yell at someone in Chinese and see their disbelief. ha