My first shopping experience in China was at Silk Market, a “seven-storey shopping mecca”. Our tour guide didn’t seem enthused that we would make our way there during our free day but I wanted to visit this tourist spot with no other preconception than my aunt’s written instruction, “Bargain at least 60% off”. 60% off, really? The poor merchants! But I was not willing to be a sucker tourist, although I may as well be, with no conversational skills whatsoever in Mandarin.
Walking into Silk Market was like walking into a storage warehouse but each 8’x8′ “store” is packed to the gills with counterfeit goods and repeated in the next “store”. NPY felt the lack of ventilation right away and was bothered by the “shop” owners loitering in the aisles, ringing off their name brands to invite you to take a further look. We only made it to a few floors: the bottom floor of shoes and bags that nearly keeled us over with the leather smell, and the first two clothing floors. My head turned at the sight of bright Harajuku Lovers bags but I was really intimidated by the idle shopkeepers watching their neighbours’ transactions because it was not busy at all on a Tuesday afternoon.
It’s common knowledge how awful Chinese shopkeepers can be, of the old generation: if you try on something, it’s not surprising if they have a small hissy fit if you don’t buy it. In a rules-be-damned market like Silk Market, it’s even harder to walk away after you’ve tried something and the little shopkeeper girl clamped her hand on my arm even when I made my voice firm and I thought I had to hit or push her. The scariest part was how the neighbour shopkeepers minded their own business despite the scene arising.
For our second shopping experience, we were fully prepared for more of the same at Lo Wu Commercial City 羅湖商業成, the five-storey shopping center right at the border between Hong Kong and Shen Zhen (China).
However, it turned out to be a well-ventilated and bright mall that throughout the day hides the craziness that comes with Chinese people selling highly marked up counterfeit goods. If you asked at the right shop, they will lead you to another shop whose winders were covered with garbage bags, hiding a room lined with shelves of bags and wallets–the products seemed unappealing, having been rifled through, dropped, and dented by previous customers. In what looks like a watch store, the salesperson will try to interest you in wallets, shoes, whatever, because every shopkeeper can produce the “counterfeit catalogue” you flip through and “order” the goods for inspection. The shopkeepers call up and a system of delivery boys appear several minutes later, delivering the product from the shop’s warehouse in the basement or wherever. The funnest part was the “spas” in the mall: shops with flimsy cheap white curtains poorly hiding hideous tan leather-esque recliners lined up with no space in between. There was chaos within and no refuge from the chaos in the halls of the mall. Another phenomena was the families of the shopkeepers loitering in certain sections of the mall–we were mall rats because my parents owned a Manchu Wok a long time ago, but we weren’t nearly as creepy.
I was armed with the prices at which I should obtain fake LV, Prada, and Chanel bags but it turned out I didn’t buy any of that stuff; still, it was fascinating how you could get a really decent fake classic LV wallet for CAD$25 and leather Prada bag for CAD$100. And they still made some kind of profit since they agreed albeit reluctantly to part with it at that bargained price. I don’t follow designers so I haven’t a clue what miniscule fraction of the real thing these items cost.
NPY experienced what I went through at Silk Market when we tried on some Nike Frees that, in my opinion, were poorly painted. The desperate little shopkeeper–I soon learned how men were harder to bargain with, Michelle said they have more pride–opened at CNY$480 (USD$80) when his rival opened at CNY$250, preposterous! Our friend just got real Nike Free shoes on sale at Nordstrom’s for just USD$50 so fake ones were worth, oh, $10, even if an impressive amount of materials went into it. We upped our offer and left the store when it was refused. The shopkeeper crossed the floor of the first floor, following us, just to make any sale, and accepted our offer, which we expected. But we got a bad vibe, and our offer was too high, so we still refused and the shopkeeper grabbed NPY’s collar! His associate came running out but not to break things up and shopkeepers all around were warily watching but not interfering. On principle we still walked away from our offer–but in bargaining etiquette that was sort of bad form–and walked really fast towards the border to leave China! At that moment, the seediness of the mall was so apparent to us–who can help it in such a competitive sales environment, peddling fake wares?
One doesn’t need to go to Shen Zhen to get your bargaining on–I was quite happy in Hong Kong at the Temple Street and Ladies’ Market 女人街 in Jordan and Mong Kok, respectively. I was really happy bargaining comfortably in Cantonese and being close to our hotel to just buy a few things and return another day. I’m embarrassed how I ended up going to the market four times in our 10 days in Hong Kong!
Meanwhile, NPY discovered G2000, a real store that I eschewed after getting a high shopping in the markets–what, pay what’s on the price tags?! Besides, I’m not shaped like their target market while NPY was closer to the mark. In fact, we found the G2000 outlet practically next door to our fantastic first hotel, the Courtyard Marriott in Western District.
On this day..
- So how did NaNo go....? - 2011