Silk Street

Silk Street: Shopper’s Heaven or Buyer’s Hell?

10/17/2009

When I uttered Xiu Shui Jie to the taxi driver, I expected to arrive at a marketplace much like we had seen in Russia: rows and rows of vendor carts lined up outside on some concrete or dirt expanse.  So when the taxi driver let us out in the middle of a bustling parking lot next to a random white building, we were quite confused.  My friend approached a nearby Westerner to ask for directions to this famous street.  He laughingly pointed to the bland white building and referenced it as six floors of anything one could possibly imagine.  As the doors, in silent obedience whisked open, I gasped in amazement.  This must be what heaven feels like. 

White walls, harsh white fluorescent lights illuminate the greatest abundance of goods I’d ever seen.  Rows upon rows upon rows of products, silk, t-shirts, coats, bags, scarves, the list goes on.  It was so overwhelming.  I glanced left and right quickly examining the goods of this and that vendor, moving once I had drawn the attention of the somewhat pushy stall attendants that eagerly sought to push the products into my bags and take my Yuan.  Foreigners abound.  I imagined buyers from the States racing through these same stalls, brutally bargaining with these fresh-faced girls.  I shuddered.  The place begins to give me headache.  After quickly surveying the floor, I absolutely fell head over heels for a cerulean silk Chinese-style shirt.  As I fingered the shirt, a tiny Chinese girl emerged from the depths.  Tactic 1: Flatter the customer.  “You cute” she said bluntly.  “Beautiful shirt will make pretty girl more pretty,” she continued.  Tactic 2: Make the customer feel as though they are getting a special deal. 

As I glanced at the shirt undecidedly, she pulled me to the side and whispered in my ear.  She glanced about as though to survey as to whether or not anyone was watching her.  “Normal price”, she typed 680 in her little black calculator.  “For you”, and punched 380 into the tiny computer.  I sighed.  I hate negotiating. I remembered the voice of one of my comrades, go for 10% of whatever price is offered.  I keyed 68 into the calculator.  “What is this” she asked, acting genuinely hurt.  Tactic 3: Develop affinity with customer.  “I really like you” she said, “I give you one more chance”.  “Don’t disappoint me”, she added for effect.  I keyed 68 into the calculator once more.  “Okay, I give you one more chance” she huffed.  “Come on my sista.”  At this remark, I burst into laughter and resolutely keyed 70 in the tiny device.  This when on for about 10 minutes until we finally agreed on 130.  As I dig into my purse for the money, she notes my other bills and states,” Oooh you rich!”  “Oh no” I state as I hastily clasp my bag.  “Oh, I’m so hot.  Will you buy me an ice cream?”  she asks.  “And one for my little sister, too?”  Curiosity has always been my greatest asset and biggest flaw.  I follow her around the corner to the ice cream stall.  “20 Yuan,” she states, whispering something to the woman in Chinese.  I glance into the little ice cream box as anger begins to creep up my spine.  The ice cream is 5 yuan, at most. 

I tell her so, which begins a round of shouting: “You crazy” and “I hate you” are casualties of the verbal war spat from the mouth of the young girl.  As I progress to the next floor, I begin to feel highly uncomfortable.  The blazing lights seem to intensify as the heaps of products begin to annoy me.  After about another 15 minutes, I’ve had enough.  Too much.  I dash toward the door, careful to avoid the angry vendor as I escape. 

 

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