Beijing: Shopping

Shopping here is generally divided into 2 different categories (especially when you're on a tour).

Mandatory stops that the tour guide will bring you to (whether or not you like it) - usually factories manufacturing pearls, semi-precious stones, crystals etc etc. Tour guides are also known to earn commissions from the total sale from his group of tour members.

The second category is the free and easy shopping where the tour guide will give you xx minutes / hours to shop. At at an agreed time, everyone is to congregate at a meeting place.

Now I'm not entirely sure if my experience was an isolated case but it was really baaaaaaaad:

Mandatory Stop: Tea Leaves
We bought "Lan Kuai Yan" from the tea house we went to (opposite the Beijing 2008 Olympic stadium). The tea was fragrant and smooth (just like how it was supposed to taste) so we bought 2 boxes. But when we got home, the tea tasted totally different! Not only was it bland, it was nearly tasteless... and the more you drink the more it tastes like "shuit cha" from local coffee shops! This is a classic case of what the Chinese say: "For But Tui Pan" loosely translated as actual goods differ from what was seen/tasted before...

Mandatory Stop: Semi Precious Stones

Now this one was kinda unique. This particular place sells blue sapphires and jade (one level above the tea house we went to). When the fella in charged of briefing us found out that we were from M'sia, he quickly informed his boss (who was apparently a Malaysian who lives in Thailand and has his businesses in China). This boss seemed very "pleased" in seeing us and spent 30min telling us how his dad had to flee M'sia and that the "Teochew" association lent him a sum of money that enabled him to start afresh in Thailand. And to show his appreciation to us fellow M'sians, he started slashing prices like maaaaaaaaaad. Take this jade necklace for instance:

The price tag stated: RMB1,680 which is ~RM800 here. He sold it to us for only RMB200 / RM100. But the best part was, his staff started arguing about the discount:

  • Staff: Boss, we simply cannot sell at that price. It's waaaaaay below our cost price!!
  • Boss: I don't care. These are my brothers and sisters from my home country. Whatever they fancy today, I will give them the best discount I can afford to...
  • Staff: (mumble mumble and grumble grumble) Come to think of it, damn good acting skills wei...

And so... greed took over and everyone started buying like mad! Apart from the jade necklace I bought, I... I... also bought something else... a blue sapphire laughing Buddha pendant which cost me a whooping RM2,200. The initial price counted was over RM10K which I then walked away but the boss gave me a price of RM3,000 which I still declined. But nabeh... the fella came damn close to me and said: I know you like this pendant very much. For you, I will sell it to you at RM2,200. Promise me that you will not tell anyone about the price. If you do, you have harmed me and my business. So in the end, I was suckered into buying it but honestly I do like the pendant la.

But the funny thing was that, the minute we all walked out of the shop... we all had this sudden feeling of being conned! Everyone started flocking to the tour guide at the same time! Really wei. No joke. But by then, it was too late. Purchases were already made. Some of my tour members spent over RM10K on stones and jades!

And the sad thing was... this boss claimed to be the supplier of blue sapphires to Poh Kong. I went to Poh Kong to have the stone authenticated but sigh... Poh Kong doesn't know this "Bai Ru Xuan" company and the stone... it wasn't even of top quality. But the good thing is that, it's really a sapphire.

Free & Easy - Silk Road
This particular shopping centre has a many little little stalls (like you know at exhibition halls). So anyway, we were told that whatever asking price they ask for, just divide it by 4 for the reasonable amount to pay. For example if they ask for RM300, you should ideally pay only RM70. So anyway, I was damn happy to be able to buy this set of long johns at the price I wanted. But stupidly, I didn't check the bag and when I happily showed my mom the purchase, the top and bottom were in different colours. The bottom was of a lighter shade of grey! By then, I had forgotten where I got the long johns (it was like a fucking maze in there).

Free & Easy - Wang Fu Jie (if I'm not mistaken)
Now if you think they only cheat you at the above places, you're wrong. I bought this bubble sweater at G2000. Spent nearly RM700 on it and the next day, the zipper was spoilt. Had to take a taxi all the way back the following day to get it exchanged! But the promoter girl has the guts to say that nothing was wrong with the zipper (all the while, she was pulling it up and down without success). Stupid bitch! Only after many minutes, when they were about to close, they exchanged purchase with a new one (to get rid of me I supposed).

So anyway, shopping in China is terrible IF:

  • You are greedy cos in China, these people seemed to have various scams (which were proven to work on tourists and is practiced / rehearsed till death)
  • You are weak cos these people are damn pushy. At the end of the day, they can bring out this "paiseh" feeling in you for not buying from them... (Note: Many promoters whom we met in China claimed that they were abused by their husband, were damn poor, had a dozen of kids etc etc)
  • You are not observant - many a times, they change your goods when you're not looking. A friend of mine shopped at Giordano and bought 2 shirts. When she came home, her shirts were not only brand-less, they were of a different design!

But, shopping in China can also be terrific IF:

  • You know what you want - there are plenty of nice things to buy in China, like their handicraft for instance has nice designs and are cheap (if you know how to bargain). We bought this pair of slippers for RM5 and back home, it was sold at RM30 at Isetan.
  • You know where to buy - DO NOT shop at mandatory stops. If you wanna get tea leaves, just go to shops selling tea leaves by the side of the road (usually a few in a row)
  • You like imitations stuff - bags, shoes, belts, wallets etc etc - all dirt cheap in China

But really. Once bitten twice shy. I may be conned this time round, but the next time... you won't get me so easily you bugger! Pity the tourists who'll be flocking Beijing in 2008 for Olympic. Am sure many will be conned left right and centre!


January 20, 2007 at 10:37 AM Jessie said...

Wow sis, what a nice travel guide, so true that I cant read this else where! As if I'm there at China the conned thing, well, i think it's the shopping feeling that buys. You pay for the keseronokan membeli-belah. lol.So lesson learnt? Next time you travel to China make sure no more conning from the Chinamen.. =D

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