Thursday, July 13, 2006

In the mainland

Where I am: I am in five star hotel in Shenzhen. Finding an internet connection got...messy, I hope to detail that later. For now, I have this entry and the one below.

So I am in China now. Right now I found a cool cafe in the Shenzhen purchasing gauntlet, resting. I ended up buying a fair amount of clothes (four shirts, two pairs of pants).
The goal was clothes. I always regretted not getting more shirts from Thailand. They were the only ones that fit me the way I wanted and they easily looked the best. Now I had an opportunity to refresh my wardrobe (most of my clothes were getting to the point of non-wearable).
I may be terrible at negotiations, or great, to be honest, I am not sure. I always feel like I am getting the last possible price they would offer, but I am not sure how honest that is. Today, I felt the prices I got were all good, and about what Chinese people pay (actually, I have developed two main tricks, one is to respond to a "special price" with "is that what Chinese people pay?" or saying I have to "look at all the options in this huge market").
This "market" I am in is a gauntlet of shops. Directly outside of the train station is a huge 7 circled market of materialistic hellscape. I was prepared for the worst, so it is a bit more civilized than I expected (certainly brighter and cleaner), but it is still a bit much. As you walk the aisles poor English rains down on you. Along with the occasional tug towards a store (luckily never enough for me to employee my scowl).
As you walk the aisles, everyone yells "copy watchoo," "DVD moviea," and such. As such, I walk straight down the aisles and whatever I do, I don't make eye-contact with anyone. This is very hard for me, as I normally always make eye contact and smile broadly while traveling. Now I am just blowing by people yelling at me.

PTI: The accents here are great. Taiwan's accents range from the nearly incomprehensible old person (who normally only speaks Taiwanese) to the average Taiwanese accent. The Taiwanese accent ranges from a bit hard to understand, to very standard, but it does not move around that much.

PTI: The wait staff is everywhere in this restaurant, if my water hints towards a quarter full they immediately refill.

As far as negotiation, the first place I went to was very nice, relaxed, and it was clear they were not lying. That said, they would not budge on the prices of anything. It was clear they were very honest, but they also did not have an email address. My hope is to create a long term contact with one of these vendors for when I am needing suits and new dress shirts more frequently.
After the first place, I thought I would leave here empty handed. I was looking to spend around $36 and get about three shirts. It was clear that was simply not possible at that first place, where I might have gotten two shirts for something like $50. That is still a great price, but I was hopping to match my success in Bangkok.
The next couple places I went were about the same story. I ended up buying one shirt for $16.76 because she liked my "is that the price you give Chinese people line." That was not bad, given that it was a nicer fabric than the other options.
That said, I discovered the real game when I went into the fabric mart. A guide I had read said they had a huge fabric market, but I had not encountered it. When I found it, I found it real good. The place was huge and crazy. After talking to a couple of vendors I realized a lady was following me around. She asked me if I needed a tailor, and I said I already had one (I thought I might go to where I first went with my own fabric).
That said, I didn't know how much fabric to buy, and she was right there, I asked the woman (she was a cute young looking late-twenties early thirties) how much fabric was typical for a shirt. She immediately told me, and she talked clearly and sweetly. I decided to hire her and hope for the best, I figure with her help, I could negotiate much better and find stuff much easier.

PTI: The RNB is actually almost right on top of the Hong Kong Dollar now, that is amazing. Last year there was a clear difference, now they will accept either just as easily.

That turned out to be what looks to be a great idea. She was very honest to me, she helped negotiate with vendors. She told me when she thought something was bogus. In general she was very kind. With her help, I negotiated prices down like crazy. Furthermore, it was much easier to tell if the prices were fair. In the end I bought three more shirts and two pairs of pants, not one of which exceeded $13 (and some where less).
That said, we will save fashion review for tomorrow, it would suck to discover that she was a terrible tailor (that said, I think they just do the measurements, and probably a small groups of shops do all the sewing for all the shops). For now, I have until five o'clock tomorrow in Shenzhen. I am debating a few more purchases, but really I am very excited to get out of Shenzhen. Tomorrow night, assuming smooth sailing, I hope to be leaving towards Yunan.

PTI: I am writing from my hotel. Shenzhen is just so much. My first impression of Shenzhen from last year, its just a little much. Everyone is moving too fast, and there seems to be no trust.

That said, perhaps it was a self fulfilling prophecy. Putting myself in full protect full perhaps created my impression that everywhere around me was dangerous. But the long and short of it: God I hope all of China is not like this. I am constantly holding my back, watching people behind me, and haggling to death every price.
I am wondering if it is too late to get insurance on my computer and camera. I am worried sick, and am relieved to finally have them in a hotel. Here is the thing, this computer will be of only half a use to me in two months, because of NYU's inane policy of no Macs. I think perhaps my problem was that I just looked too tourist, and that was bugging me.
Before i came to this hotel, I thought I would give shoe buying a go. I wanted to get flatter shoes that I could fit into my luggage easily. I had no idea what I was getting into. I have never had someone negotiate so hard and fast.
She: 650 is the original price, begging me for how much I would pay
I: Umm...
She: Okay, because you can speak Chinese, because you are a friend, 350.
I: But look at all of these various problems (point out a bunch of shoddy problems).
She: Well how much will you pay?
I: Uhhh...
She: Come on, how much? We can talk, but I need what you will pay.
I: 70, which was honest, looking at the shoes and knowing the area, I knew she would make a nice profit off of that.
She: What? What? Impossible...she went on crying foul for a while. Give me a real price.
I: Give me a real price! If you give me a real price, I will give you one.
*Extended fight*
I did not really want these shoes that much, but they fit nice, and they were flatter (which will allow me to hike, play impromptu basketball games and without being huge in my bag).
She: Okay, I will give you a real price, 280, that is less than half of 650.
I: Look, I think we are looking for different thing, we simply cannot deal here, I am going to go.
She: Give me your largest price.
I: I threw out 130.
She: No, no way... (at this point, literally the entire store is watching, they had something like ten employees in a small room of a store, and they were all watching me). She says, okay, 180.
I: Long thought, not really about the price, but as to the experience.
She: You are thinking for so long, look 170.
I: Sorry, you wanted my highest price, my highest was 130, I am going to leave at that. Clearly we can't make a deal.
She: She starts dropping the price by tens while I get my stuff together, she eventually says "okay, and just starts packing up the stuff."
I: Mind you, the 130 had been said a long time ago, and it was unclear she had just said f it and given me 130. So I ask, wait, what price?
She: 130, how about 140?
I: No
She: Okay, 130.
The thing is, I am not sure if I wanted them for 130, not saying that I was doped, but its on the list of possibilities. It was just mad confusing. That said, I have fake Diesel's which should not make it much longer than this month.
Getting a hotel was a similarly "ugh" experience, including a guy following me trying to get me in his hotel. That said, I like my current hotel, it looks terrible on the outside, I thought I was getting ripped (but I was not willing to keep looking, nor deal with the aforementioned guy), but the inside is crazy nice. In fact, the inside is easily the best hotel I have been in on this trip so far (not much of a competition, but I was a bit impressed). My view of Shenzhen is amazing.
Tomorrow the only way to get to Kunming that I saw tomorrow left at 2:30, when my shirts will not be done. My thought is to go somewhere in between the two for a night, because I need out of this city.

1 comment:

~allie said...

So the question we're all dying to ask - French cuffs or no?