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On the Silk Street in Beijing

The moment I rather not be Chinese.


Beijing, December 26th 2012

Thanks to Google Map, I could figure out the subway to Silk Street. I thought, this Silk Street could be a make-over for the missing-of-silk on the China part of my previous Silk Road Adventure.

Voila! Yes, there were silk products like scarfs, but only for a very low percentage of the whole merchandise in this building. What were all the others? Coats, shoes, bags, suitcases, purses, and such.

"Fine," I told myself. "Silk first came from China. But if you want to find out about silk, maybe it's no longer here." And, I changed my mind. I decided to buy a pair of winter shoes, as the one I bought 2 days ago turned out to be killing my toes. I also decided that I wanted a blue one.

I went in two three shops. Most of the shoes were alike. I began to get a rough idea of what kind of blue shoes I might buy. Please note, I might. There were no price tags, so I couldn't figure out whether the shoe I was aiming for was affordable or not.

Hold Shoes Shop was the name. I went in. When the shopkeeper noticed my Mandarin wasn't fluent, she switched to English.

"How much is this?" I asked.

"Just try them on." So, I did.

"What size are your shoes?" she asked.

"Thirty seven."

"These are thirty eight."

"Thirty eight?? Give me thirty nine, then."

"Just sit down. We'll get you a bigger size."

"How much is this?

"Just sit down," she repeated.

I did. But just for thirty seconds. I'm not one who can stay still unless I have something to do. So, I looked for something to do. I browsed the shoe rack. The lady shopkeeper persuaded me to buy two pairs. I insisted, no. That would absolutely be useless as I live in a country where winter is unknown.

The other shopkeeper, a guy, started a conversation with me asking where I was from. He was like, why am I Chinese but cannot speak Chinese. Errr, did he say he was from Malaysia? I don't quite remember. But there were, a handful of Malaysian shopkeeper in other shops, because I heard them speaking Malay to guests wearing scarfs.

My shoes arrived. "How much is this?"

"Try them on," was the reply. So, I did.

The shoes fitted well. "How much is it?"

"They look very nice on you."

Because I didn't get an answer on how much it was, I began to walk around the shop testing the shoes. "How much is this?"

"If you buy two pairs, I'll give you a discount."

"No, I don't need two pairs. You know, there's no winter in my country."

"But you can change shoes."

"No, I don't want to change shoes. Besides I don't have space in my suitcase."

I sat down and took off the shoes. "How much is this?"

"See, Australian brand." was her answer.

"Ah, but it's not original, is it?" I argued.

"Yeah... but good quality."

"Anyway it's just an imitation."

"Inside here is covered with leather. It makes your feet warm."

"I'm afraid snow would seep inside when I step into deep snow."

"No, it won't."

"Are you sure?"


"So how much is this? I have asked you many times already."

"Alright. Are you going to buy that one also?"

"No! I told you, I only need one pair."

"Alright, I give you 850 because you are my friend."

"Is there an ATM machine in this building?"

"Yes, there is," answered the guy shopkeeper.

"Where is it?"

"On the first floor."

"Okay, let me look around first."

"Why? I give you a good price!" The guy started to sound fierce.

"Okay, okay, let me look around first.

"I don't like this! She gave you a good price already!"

"If you are sure you are giving me a good price, why don't you let me look around?"

"We already got the shoes for you and now you say you want to look around!"

"Hey! I already asked you how much the price is before you went to get the shoes, but you never answered!"

"Ah you Indonesia."

This, triggered my emotion. "This is the reason why I don't speak Chinese. Some people in my country hate Chinese people. I don't blame them, because look at you! What a shame thing it is to be Chinese!"

No! I didn't say that. But I really, really, wanted to so much. I replied, "I don't bring enough cash. I need to go to the ATM."

"Okay, I can go with you."

"Why?! You don't need to go with me."

"You might not know the way."

"You said it's on the first floor, didn't you? How big is this building that I might not find it?"

"I can take you there."

"Why do you have to? What do you want to do?!?"

"I give you more discount. 800."

"Alright, let me go to the ATM, and then I'll return here."

I wanted to exit the shop, but... I couldn't! Another lady, looking a bit older than the other 2 shopkeepers, stood at the doorway! She literally blocked the door with her body!

"I told you I don't have money. How can I pay you?!"

"You can use credit card."

"You accept credit card?" I was asking that, because I really didn't have enough cash.

"Yes, we do."

"Okay, let me look around."

"Ah you always say you want to look around! 700! That's it! That's a very good price!"

I said nothing. I just stood still, face to face with that plump lady. She did not gave way, not even an inch. Tension in the air was high.

"Please, 650. I beg you!" said the guy again.

"Okay!! But let me tell you that I'm buying this not because I really want to buy!" I gave my credit card.

The guy gave my credit card to the plump lady, and she walked out the shop.

"Hey! Why are you going away?!"

"The credit card machine here is broken," explained the guy.

So I walked along the plump lady, together with the younger lady shopkeeper who first greeted me. She carried my shoes with her.

"Give my credit card to me!"

She seemed hesitant.

"Hey! Give it to me! You see I'm walking with you. I'll give it to you when we arrive at the machine."

We arrived at a purse and bag shop. The credit card machine was covered by the purse rack. I couldn't see it from the place I stood. It seemed rather suspicious here, because the process took much longer than usual. What did the lady behind there do with my credit card?? Aaaargh!

"Won't you take a look at the purses?" asked the younger lady shopkeeper who had my shoes in her hands.

"Nooo!! I don't even want to touch them. Because if I touch them, you'll force me to buy like these shoes!"

Finally, I bought these shoes for 650 yuan under high pressure. Nearly everything looks the same as the original one, except there's no UGG imprinted on the sole. But the pattern is the same.

Actually I had been thinking of buying another winter coat and some more pairs of stockings. I deleted those ideas from my mind at once.

[The shoes themselves, fortunately still, turned out to be a good companion through the snow deserts in Turpan until the deep snow mountains in Asahikawa. My toes no longer hurt in these shoes of size 41. That's weird. But as a mater of fact, in Jiuzhaigou I bought size 37 and after a few days my toes started to hurt. When I matched the length of the sole with my sneakers, they were obviously shorter. And then the one I bought 2 days ago, they were number 38. My toes began to hurt on the first night. I matched the sole with my sneakers. Once again they were obviously shorter. But not these shoes of size 41.]

Here's a paragraph from Silk Street's website:
Walk away. If you've reached an impasse during your bargaining and it doesn't look like either of you will budge, just walk away. Tell the shopkeeper sorry and then walk down the aisle. More often than not they will come after you or call you back to the stall with a cheaper price. Be reluctant about coming back, and make sure to negotiate for a price on your terms. If the shopkeeper is a little annoyed at you when you make your transaction, you've probably gotten a good deal.

My question: How would you walk away if the doorway is blocked?! Call the police??

Well, Hold Shoes Shop, was the name. I actually had been warned. They will hold me until I buy. Aye. In my sorrow, I laughed at myself.

Still on Silk Street. The story hasn't ended yet. I went to the food court on the basement. I wanted something that had gravy, plus couldn't wait arriving in Xinjiang to enjoy mutton.

I noticed some vendors, including this one, had no price list. But I had nothing negative feeling of that. How shocked I was when I was charged 58 yuan for this single dish! The waiter took out a price list from under the table and pointed on the 58 yuan.

"Why so expensive?!"

"Lamb. Expensive."

As matter of fact, there wasn't really much meat inside. Only a few on top and the rest was noodle only.

After the meal, I required to see the price list again. Reluctantly, the waiter took it out from under the table. Obviously, he had lied that it was expensive because it was mutton. All, yes all, the other menu was of the same price: 58 yuan. There was nothing more or less than 58 yuan.

Another vendor who had a price list hung on top distinctively, displayed regular price around 15 to 18 yuan. This is not at all my first time in China. I know very well how much a meal cost. I felt cheated for the second time just in one evening.

I sent an email about my experience to the address written on the bottom of Silk Street's website, but never got a reply. I resent my email with a note on top:
I thought you would return the money you cheated from me or at least apologize.
Or you don't understand English?
Is your English just good enough to fool a foreigner??

All along my journey in China, I had been many times proud to be Chinese. Nevertheless, this time, although I am well aware that it's not ethnicity that makes people good or bad, I felt like I wish I could throw away my Chinese face. It hurt worse when it occurred to me that I had been cheated by my own folk.

Posted by automidori 04:37 Archived in China Tagged china beijing silk_street

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