Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gucci Girl

During our stroll through the Summer Palace (I can only imagine how ridiculous we must come off as tour guides!), there was a woman hawking fake Gucci bags. Actually, there were a lot of women selling the stuff, plus all of these guys with boxes full of Rolexes. (When I asked a Rolex dude, zhende haishi jiade?, "Are they real or fake?", he responded, zhende...uh...bu zhen bu jia. In English..."They are real! Well...They are neither real nor fake!")

Seeing one of the bu zhen bu jia Gucci bags, Desi gave us a job. "See if you can get me the brown one for thirty kuai." The opening offer by the seller was one hundred twenty kuai. As usual, we were far apart!

As we strolled down the Long Corridor, past the Marble Boat, the woman (and some other sellers) persisted. Eventually, they were down to fifty kuai, but there we all reached an impasse.

Approaching the park exit, with desperation levels rising, our girl finally came down to thirty-five kuai, a deal we decided to take.

End of story? Not quite. Here are your words of warning for the day. When you get a low price, beware of a few last tricks street merchants have up their sleeves.

The product switch. The bag we had been looking at was in good shape and well made (yeah, right!). Surrounded by the Gucci women, they made an attempt to switch "ours" with an identical bag that had really been through the ringer and looked like it was about to fall apart. Tucking the good bag under her shoulder, Julie ran off away from the crowd while the exchange was taking place.

The counterfeit pass. When we handed the seller a fifty kuai note, she gave us a five kuai note, plus a twenty spot. Now, this was strange on two fronts. First of all, twenty-five in change was too much. Secondly, the twenty was clearly not legal Chinese tender. When I made the case that the bill was fake, the response we got was that it was xinde. "It's one of the new twenty kuai notes." Needless to say, we did not go for that one, and wouldn't accept the phony.

Then, in the bustle, the seller lost her edge for a moment, and gave us a real twenty kuai note. Relieved to have the deal over, we grabbed it and went on our way, oblivious (for the moment) that we had received ten kuai too many.

A few minutes later, the group of bag sellers came running up from behind. We quickly realized their mistake, and refunded them their ten kuai. The last we saw of our friends? They were standing there, arguing with one another over whose ten kuai the bill was. That was one negotiation we were happy to not be a part of!

~Steve

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