January 12, 2008

Childrens' Clothes, Gas Stoves and "Polos"

Print More

The influence of American culture in China is clear, from conversations about the very popular Prison Break to the plethora of KFCs and McDonald’s. As many people in China have embraced a more consumer culture, American-style malls have grown up in cities.
In Beijing and Shanghai we were shown large malls with American, European and Chinese stores. The prices were generally lower than the same item would be at the same store in the U.S., but much more expensive than goods outside the malls.
[img_assist|nid=26584|title=Man on horseback.|desc=A vendor in Beijing’s famed Silk Market directs a frustrated glance at Sun Editor in Chief Jonny Lieberman ’08 as he looks at her merchandise. Photo: Matt Hintsa|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]The Silk Market in Beijing, one of the only places we heard a significant amount of English around us in China, is filled with floor after floor of vendors selling knock-off goods – from $4 “Polo” shirts to $10 “silk” dresses. Bargaining is a must at places like this, with vendors quoting prices anywhere from two to five times what they would accept for the item. While speaking Chinese might be an advantage in getting a better deal, bargaining is largely done on calculators – so neither party needs to know numbers in the other’s language.
Many of the sales methods were very different than at stores in the U.S. Walking away during bargaining or refusing to pay attention to a particular vendor often resulted in being yelled at, chased or having your arm grabbed. A vendor even said one of us was wearing ugly jeans and should buy a new pair from her.
Bargaining is common at most shopping places in China. Malls and some stores with price tags do not allow price negotiation, but almost everywhere else does.
[img_assist|nid=26587|title=Shopping lights.|desc=Shoppers walk around the Fuzimiao section of Nanjing, China in early January. Photo: Matt Hintsa.|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]Many people buy things from vendors on the street or at small stores that generally specialize in one product like luggage or tea cups. There are also large markets with many vendors selling different Chinese products. Like the Silk Market, these places sell everything – stuffed animals, cooking stoves, floor mats, candy and more.
Unlike the Silk Market, at both of these types of stores, shoppers are not tourists, speaking Chinese or having a translator is a must, and there are no fake Prada labels to be seen. The vendors are also generally not as aggressive; no one yelled or grabbed us.
At one of the large markets in Nanjing called Jin Sheng, the bottom floor sold less expensive items than the top, and more goods, including mopeds, bicycles, balloons and whole vegetables, were for sale outside. The day we visited many of the vendors were busy putting together the goods they were selling or wrapping them up in small packages. A few booths were also deep frying meat on sticks and making hot bubble tea.
[img_assist|nid=26586|title=Goods galore.|desc=Locals shop in the main level of the Jin Sheng market in Nanjing, China. Photo: Matt Hintsa|link=node|align=leftt|width=|height=0]At tourist sights and shopping areas many people walk around trying to sell random goods. In Beijing, 2008 Olympic paraphernalia was common; when one of the people we were with agreed to buy some Olympic souvenirs, about four other people immediately ran over to try to sell us more.
We saw many types of shopping while China, but one retail behemoth we only drove by – a several story Wal-Mart in Nanjing.
Click here for more about The Sun’s trip to China