Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tales From the Orient: The Silk Market

How do I describe The Silk Market? If you're thinking it's a quaint little district where they sell silk, you're wrong. Have you ever been to China Town in a big city like New York? It's kind of like that. Except somebody took China Town, divided it into departments (purses, electronics, etc.) and put it into a mall that's about stories tall. So everything is still just as fake as a Playmate's boobs but it's in a nice building rather than a booth on the street. And you can haggle with people.

We took the subway to The Silk Market and spent about 2 hours there. The Silk Market combines my love of shopping with my love of being argumentative. When I was younger (because I'm so old now?) I hated haggling. The part of me that hates talking to people still hates haggling, but my love of arguing outweighs that. I didn't like haggling in Honduras last year and this is going to sound so weird, but I think it was because I spoke the language so I could actually get into a whole conversation with the merchant about something. I couldn't do that in China; I could just punch numbers into a calculator and respond to the few English phrases the person knew. As you can imagine, The Silk Market is the perfect stage for hilarity.

I floated around with different members of our group. First I was with the guys because they wanted to look at electronics and so did I. Blake and I walked into a store and right away the clerk started trying to sell something to Blake. Blake says, "What is it, a flashlight?" And then you hear this "TZZZZT!" noise and Blake says, "Oh, a taser!" And you probably had to be there but I started laughing because his tone was one of "yes of course, why wouldn't it be a flashlight/taser?" So this guy keeps trying to convince Blake that he needs a taser, "you know, when you drink too much you might need." And I'm in the background saying, "That's right Blake, how many times on this trip have you talked about wishing you had a flashlight/taser?" So that was awesome.

They also have these laser pointers that are super strong and illegal in the US. I won't lie, they're cool and I definitely wanted one but it probably would've gotten taken out of my suitcase. I was in another store with Andy and Dick and this store had lasers, pens, and others things like that. I was standing by Dick and he was looking at something and I wasn't sure what it was. Well, he finally got it open and a huge flame comes out of it! I yelled, "Oh shit!" Which, BTW, is always appropriate on a mission trip. But I did think my arm was going to catch on fire. Apparently this store had a large collection of lighters although this thing seemed more like a flame thrower to me. I mean, the flame was huge! And you didn't have to do anything to it, just open the lid and boom! Fire!

I roamed into a watch store next because it occurred to me that Jerry's watch had broken awhile back and what better place to get him a "nice" new watch than The Silk Market. As soon as I walked in I realized that I was way over my head. First of all, I know nothing about watches. Secondly, I have absolutely no idea what kind of watch he would want. However I was already in the store so it looked like this was happening. I ended up picking out a simple "Armani" watch and the girl told me that the regular price was 600¥. But of course she knew that was much too high for me, what with us being close personal friends and all. So she was going to charge me 300¥. Unfortunately I was thinking more like 100¥. She started lowering the price on account of I was her "first customer of the day". I ended up paying 150¥ ($26), which I think was pretty good. And I told Jerry, if that's not the best $26 timepiece he's ever owned then by God I will take that thing back to the store and give that girl a talking to! I did see one watch break as they were taking the plastic off of it (don't worry, they gave that person another watch). Luckily that didn't happen to my watch, because my watch is the real thing.

Then there was an incident at a bracelet store where some ladies were trying to screw Andy over on some bracelets and act like they didn't have change and give him some crap bracelets instead of a second nice bracelet. So I started backing him up on that and getting arbitrarily argumentative and aggressive with them until they caved. By that point I was clearly drunk on power and we ran into Tara and Carrie. They were looking at tea pots and mentioned how they'd tried to get some fans for 10¥ but the shop people refused. And I said, "Oh I'll get you those fans." So I went to look at spoons while they finished looking at tea pots and the lady wanted me to pay 350¥ for a spoon. I said, "Umm, I was thinking more like 5¥ or 10¥." She told me that my price was "impossible" so I peaced out on her. I did get one later for 10¥, so it must not have been that impossible.

We went up to the fan place and wouldn't you know it, got the fans for 10¥. I was looking around at some other stuff when I heard this lady start getting really loud. It was an American lady. She's hollering, "Give me back my money!" Naturally I started to stare at her, because that's what you do in these situations. Well, I didn't stare right at her because she kind of looked like maybe she could fight me and her voice sounded a little crazy so I tried to be sly about it.

She's over in one of the technology stores (next door to the flashlight/taser store) and she wants them to give her her money back. Apparently the day before she had bought a phone at that store and when she plugged it in at the hotel she heard it short out in the outlet and then she smelled it burning or whatever. So this was completely unacceptable because she has 3 kids at home and now they can't even play games on this phone and you do not want to see her angry.

Somehow, Carrie and Tara hadn't heard this lady and they were trying to leave so I had to call them back over to watch the drama unfold. Plus that way I had people to talk to. Before that it was just me and one of the Chinese salesladies. We were both watching the crazy lady and I kept looking at her like, "Hey that lady is crazy, right?" but she didn't reciprocate my glances because maybe she thinks I'm crazy, too. Eventually we had to leave and we didn't get to see a resolution, but my guess is she did not get her money back. I was really hoping to see her throw some boxes or something.

It didn't occur to me until that moment that some people think that because The Silk Market is set up like a mall that means that it's legit. If you're haggling over an iPhone with someone whose entire business operates out of a fanny pack and no receipts whatsoever, what makes you think they have a return policy? You think Apple and Rolex and all those other companies wouldn't be all over China in a heartbeat if those were actually the real products? Some people are pretty foolish.

"Armani" watch: 150¥. China spoon: 10¥. 3 China girl pens: 15¥. Joy that comes from arguing over prices: Priceless. The Silk Market.


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