Published: July 9th 2012July 9th 2012
This is my first blog. I hope you like it. So here goes.
Mom and I planned to get out and do things today. It’s been a day since I came back from UK and well high time we get out specially when in Shanghai! My parents moved here six months ago because of my dad's transfer and I’m here because I have holidays in college. Dad's transfer initially a shock is really quite an opportunity for me because I get to travel a lot and see a side of the world that hardly anyone around me has seen or heard of.
I'm an architecture student, and recently that seems to be the one thing that defines me. Let’s just say there are many things that define me, but lately studying architecture seems to be the most exciting thing about me. This is a forewarning that my views about architecture are amateur, I've been introduced to architecture really only since the past two years and I am to say the least a little unsure about my observations. ( Or as somebody else put it, I'm usually unsure about everything... I like to attach words like, I don't know, maybe ... to something I might very strongly agree or disagree to and end it in a question, always looking for agreement externally) more about that later though.
As I was saying, mom and I decided to check out a market that she'd been told of, a place where all the expats go for shopping in Shanghai. It’s the one that you enter as soon as you come up the escalators from the Science and Technology metro station. It’s convenient because one doesn't have to get out in the sultry July weather. You directly enter this neat and clean, air conditioned market. Which is quite like Palika bazaar in Delhi (for my Indian friends who're reading this) but cleaner, no bad smells and at least on a Monday morning less crowded. It’s the place you can get the very famous and the very best fakes and you can bargain on everything. Everything you can imagine crocs, shoes, bags, clothes (Zara as well), electronics etc.
So reluctant at first, we slowly got into the groove of the whole thing. We looked at a few bags, I liked a couple but I didn't know how we were doing this. You see, we hadn't decided on a secret wink or a gesture to say I really wanted something so that mom can bargain without the shopkeeper knowing my interest. So the ever famous and quite annoying language issue was to be used to our advantage. We decided I’ll tell her what I wanted in Hindi and she was going to then manage everything from then on. Although my mother isn't really the shopping expert, bargaining is something she seems to enjoy and I’m one of those young people who'll walk away when a bargain starts just because I'm embarrassed. The problem with this scheme really was that I couldn't make up my mind. The ever unsure person is not quite the person you want around you when you're trying to bargain. So this was after we'd already bought a few things, a linen dark blue Zara dress (yea right) and a few 'I love Shanghai' panda tees and so we ended up at another bags shop. I asked to see a bag in blue because I thought it looked like a nice bag, once it came and so did mom who was in a shop next door, I was already having second thoughts about it. I mumbled something about already having too many bags and not really using them, but by then my mom and the thin (they’re ALL size zero) petit Chinese girl were already negotiating the price. Oh dear, she was telling mom about how this was a good quality fake and so it should be more expensive than a bad quality fake. I objected that I didn't want the bag; it couldn't even fit a sketch book! So then almost like they'd only remotely registered what I’d just said, she told mom that they should talk only if we were actually going to buy the bag. Mom said I(being me) will buy it if she likes the price. By then all this was just becoming too funny. She asked mom if she'd really buy it if the price was to her liking and mom said yes. So mom had said, 40 Yuan and she was trying to convince mom of what a 'good branded fake' it was and that she was her first customer that day and so she should buy it for 50 Yuan (which was the price she'd come down from 120 Yuan). By then I might have interjected a couple of times about not wanting it, but it hardly mattered, mom really just wanted to see if she actually came down to her price. And surprisingly, she did! She said we could take it for 40 and she started shuffling it down in the bag I was carrying! She saw the look on our faces and very correctly pointed out how we'd agreed to buy it if she came down to our prices. I couldn't keep the laughter in my stomach any longer and burst out. Mom had no choice but to buy the bag even though we din want it, just because she was enjoying the bargaining! The situation was such that mom had to pay. It was hilarious and the clever shopkeeper too had a lovely proud smile on her face when she took the money!
Shopping in Shanghai can be quite an experience specially because there’s no fixed price. Even in super markets, depending on its location the prices of the same product will be different. All depends on how smart you are, and how hard will you try to get a better price.
All the shopkeepers especially, one who was literally distraught about having to agree to mom’s price guessed we were from India. Even though we don’t usually shop like this, I guess it is in our blood to bargain.