The Stay in China
It’s true that one good decision leads to another. After taking the train to my hotel instead of the taxi, I decided to keep the streak going. The objective is to spend as little as possible on personal consumption and use all of my budgeted cash for purchasing merchandise. With that in mind, I decided to take the subway instead of the taxi to travel to and from my hotel to the mall. So that’s 75 cents for each trip which is more than acceptable. Second, I decided to spend as little as possible on food. This is also not that difficult in Shanghai since there are stalls that sell a healthy helping of the local cuisine for less than $1 all within walking distance of the hotel. If I start getting tired of fried dumplings, I can also go to pizza hut, KFC or any other American establishment (which is a proper sit down restaurant over there btw) and get a three course meal for 80 Yuan which is the equivalent of $11. I can’t lose on this front. The last thing I had to do to make sure I spent most of my money on the business was to stay in my room unless I was going to shop. Good thing I had mountains of homework to keep me busy.
Tuesday afternoon was spent recovering from Jet lag and catching up on some required reading for one of the classes I’m taking. At around 6pm I ventured out to check out the market. I got on the metro and immediately regretted it. I’m from D.C. How is it that I forgot that at 6pm, trains will be packed to the brim with commuters returning home from work?? In a city with 27million people, jam packed takes on a new meaning. I’m not going to describe what it felt like. That could literally be a post on its own. Just know, breathing was no small feat. Five stops later, I was spat out at my station and made my way to the mall. Almost instantly I was swarmed again with what I can only described as mall brokers. They don’t really work at any of the stores. What they’re hoping to do is get customers to go to one of the stores they’re collaborating with to make their purchases. They have business cards, they’re extremely polite and extremely relentless. I picked a broker who said his name was Mike (yeah ok), mainly because he spoke the best English out of all of them and went to the stores he worked with. I didn’t want to buy a lot of stuff because I was too exhausted to negotiate properly, I wanted to see what else was also out there and I wanted to wait for my contact whom I had planned to meet on Thursday to see if the prices I thought were fair could be further reduced. I went around, looked at a few things and bought about 10 items, each of which I negotiated down to 20% of their initial price. I was exhausted at the end of it and made my way back to the hotel somehow still feeling like I got cheated. Mike promised that he will meet me here the next day as well and show me more stuff. I waived him off thinking that he’ll never see me again.
Wednesday was less adventurous. I spent a majority of the day finishing a paper for class and working on homework for a couple of other classes. I wanted to figure out what the optimal time was for using the subway system, optimal, meaning that I could breathe comfortably without sticking my neck up and out like one of those birds swallowing up fish on nature specials. I really wasn’t asking for much. I got on the train at around 2pm and it was only half full! Yes! I got to my station and got off at the stop. As I was going up the escalator I heard someone screaming “pretty lady! PREEEEEETYYYY LADYYYYYYYY!” Mike had found me! Damn it! I can’t get away from this guy. I begrudgingly went to a few more stores with him and actually found some things I thought were really nice. I negotiated again but couldn’t get any lower than the price I paid the day before because stupid Mike had already told the lady what I was willing to pay. So I decided to purchase items I didn’t buy the day before to start off on a blank slate. I bought about 20 items. On the train ride back, I started to feel concerned. 20 silk robes were surprisingly heavy! Am I going to be able to buy the quantity I wanted to without going over the limit?