Sunday, December 21, 2008

No, I Don't Need A Receipt!

Last night, as we were walking back to our hotel here in Chengde, I had a little encounter that I can't resist mentioning...

I ducked into this shop to buy a couple of sodas. I grabbed one Coke and one Pepsi, and headed over to where these two women were sitting. Plopping the sodas down, I asked, duo shao qian? (How much?)

Wu kuai qian yi ping, came the reply. "Wu kuai qian?" Really?

Now, I was puzzled because five kuai for a bottle of soda is a lot of money in this country. Usually, in a small market like this, three kuai is the going rate (and you can get them cheaper than that in larger stores). So five kuai per bottle is a simply non-starter for me...just on the principal of it. This was a blatant attempt to squeeze a few extra kuai out of the foreigner, and I was not going for it.

(I mean, imagine if a French person walked into Mamma Lucia's in Rockville, and Jimmy said, "For you, my French friend, the Chicken Brunello is 18 dollars." And then a moment later to the next person in line, "Hey Rocco! How about a Chicken Brunello for 10 bucks!?")

So how did I react? I calmly picked the bottles up, and brought them back to where I had originally found them. As I was heading toward the exit, one of the women asked me...xuyao fapiao ma?

"Do I need a receipt?" That's a strange question, I thought to myself.

It turns out that if I didn't want a receipt, I could have the sodas for three kuai each. Uh...sure...bu yao fapiao...I don't need a receipt.

(Back to Mamma Lucia's. Imagine the French person getting disgusted, and Jimmy calling out, "Hey buddy! Don't leave! I'll tell you what...So long as you pay cash up front, I'll give you the Chicken Brunello for ten bucks!)

Out on the street, Desi, who had observed the entire exchange through the window, asked..."What exactly was going on in there?" When I told her what had gone down, I wasn't sure if she was cracking up because the vendor had tried to rook me out of a few kuai, or because I was so determined to hold on to the equivalent of 60 cents.


PS: Desi sent me back in there again tonight. (It's kind of a sport for her, to watch me do battle out on the mean streets of China.) There was a different woman at the door. When I brought the bottles of soda to her, another woman, who had been there last night (and who this time was lying on a bed over in a corner...imagine if Jimmy had a place to lay down behind the register), yelled out that the price for me was san kuai qian (three kuai each). I guess she remembered that I don't need a receipt...


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