Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Day 1 in Shanghai: Getting Ripped Off

The hotel we're staying in is surprisingly good. The beds aren't the softest, but it has a better breakfast than hotels in the States, hot water, and basic room service. When we first arrived there was a loud drilling noise from nearby. A piece of paper in our room kindly let us know that we should be "informed the items marked bellow will be done from 12/10 to 1/31." I was only annoyed at seeing "fix up and construct" checked until I saw our other options, notably "suspension of water supply."

We woke up by 5:30 at the latest because of jetlag, and after breakfast decided to go try to buy some things before our tour began. Rebecca, Colin (my roommate), Jessica, Sofia and I went exploring. I was out to buy a watch, since without my cell phone, I had no way of telling the time. We figured out the word for watch (shoubiao) and started asking around. Finally we got to a little shack where a lady offered me a watch for 10 kuai. The exchange rate is 7 kuai to 1 dollar, but even though she offered it to me for about $1.50, I figured that was probably too expensive and negotiated down to 8 kuai. Before we even got back to the hotel the strap had broken, but since I didn't like the strap, I didn't mind. Then the timekeeping part of the watch started acting up, and the only time it showed the right time was when I reset it.

During the tour some guys were hawking these really cool skates that are just two rollerblade wheels attached by a little platform. They make your shoes into the rolling kind that are popular in like 7th grade, and I thought that it was nice that they attached with a strap for easy removal. Well, the guy first said they cost 140 kuai, so I cut it about in half, offered 80, he agreed, and I had paid before I even realized that I had just paid over $10 for these plastic shoe attachments. Seeing that we were suckers, the hawkers offered everyone else a cheaper price and before they left us alone the going rate was down to 30 kuai.

Everyone in our group was convinced that I was an impulse buyer who would buy anything offered, which is funny because that's pretty much the opposite of how I spend money. The others weren't convinced, though, and took my two bad buys as proof that I didn't know what I was doing.

I really didn't know what I was doing, but I figured the more I tried to buy, the better I'd get at it, so later that day I went to buy a new watch. I found a good stall, the lady started off at 80 kuai, and then I said that I could buy a cheaper watch in America. It probably didn't come out that way, but she got the drift and went down to 50. Then I managed to tell her the story of how I had already bought a crappy watch that morning and didn't have a lot of money to spend, and that I would only spend 35 kuai. She finally relented, and I got a watch for $5. It's silver, and simple, and it still has the right time twelve hours later.


Anonymous said...

haha Will this story reminds me of us in Italy. If Chinese doesn't work for haggling you could always try German! Btw, your writing style is really enjoyable, Aunt Gwen loves reading your posts, even if she can't figure out how to post, she sends her love.

T.C. said...

scratch out the last part of my post (not the aunt gwen sending love part)but as it turns out Aunt Gwen is more advanced on this German program than me, so she showed me how to post unanimously. haha

T.C. said...

one more thing (I apologize for the 3 posts, i'd imagine its somewhat of a disappointment to see that you have 3 comments, only to learn they're from the same person who can't get their ideas right.)i didn't mean unanimously, that was what the spellchecker said, i meant to say that she showed me how to post with my name instead of "Anonymous"

Aunt Gwen said...

TC thought I couldn't figure out how to leave a comment!(His is showing up as a German blog site, which of course makes him happy, but mine is in English) Buying your watch sounds a lot like buying one in New York in China Town. The one time I bought a "Rolex" off a street vendor--by the time I got home on the bus it had stopped! I guess it's a lesson we all have to learn the hard way! Interesting cultural comments. I'm enjoying your blog so far!

mom said...

Aaaah, here is a story to put this in even more perspective. After living in China four YEARS (not four hours, as you were), I went to the market to buy a pair of shoes. After what I thought was very skillful negotiation, I managed to come back with shoes at what I was convinced was a really good, really skillful price. When my students showed up later in the day, they laughed themselves silly at how much I overpaid. Go figure.
So how did I ever get used to looking so dumb when people would laugh at the foolish way I spent my money? When they made fun of me and acted all superior and put me down for spending (what everyone knows) is too much??? Here is what I finally came to- I count the amount I overpaid as God's investment in my education. After all, He could have stopped me from spending too much, but instead He let me spend the money He gave me.
So I tell Him about the overspending, and then He and I have a good laugh about it. After all, I am not from that culture and will never be as good as living in their culture as I am in my own.

mom said...

Also, this is a great story. We can all relate, can you tell?

Dad said...

Hi Will. This is Dad. Your posts are truly cracking me up - and bringing back lots of memories! You just may have a future as a travel writer, in which case I'm sure your majors in English and Chinese could serve you well! Sounds like you're having fun and learning lots! Great to hear from you so often! Keep up the good work! Much love, Dad

jimmy t said...

that is quite halarious...keep writing, i love it!