Growing up I never traveled. I barely made it out of my state. The only reason I traveled to a neighboring state was because my grandparents lived there, and my parents had to visit them at least once a year. So I am not a smart, well traveled man who knows all the ins and outs of other cultures.
Growing up as naive as I have, it is no surprise that when I was taken to a market in China that I was not to be trusted to not overspend. But in my defense there is more to this ignorance then just haggling for a good price. I am also not a knowledgeable shopper in general. I don’t know how much a cashmere sweater is supposed to cost. I don’t even know how much a wallet or a belt is supposed to cost.
Spending any amount is really where I went wrong.
Here is my perspective on learning how to shop in China…
Aloysa and I decided to go shopping at the Pearl Market in Beijing. My wife made many mistakes in this shopping trip. One, leaving all the cash with me. Two, leaving me alone and going to the restroom. Huge mistakes… that she has told me she will never do again. The restroom she will do of course, but the money will always stay with her from now on.
At first I was just going to patiently stand outside the restroom waiting for her to come out. But for some unknown reason I decided to look around at some of the shops to see what was for sale.
There was anything you want in this huge market. From dresses to suits. Shoes to hats. Pearls to watches. It was an amazing place, and I felt as out of place as a bald man at a barber shop. Most of the store workers were young people, and these kids saw me coming from a mile away.
First, I bought a belt that I didn’t need.Cost: $100. That was after being left alone for about 10 minutes. You would think that after buying the belt that I would be clever enough and go try and find Aloysa. Oh no, that would have been the smart thing to do. Of course, hind sight was twenty-twenty, but at the time I had really not done anything wrong and besides, I was just looking around.
These young kids were amazing because I heard them speaking many different languages to their foreign customers. I heard Spanish, French, Italian, Russian among others. They would try and get my attention by speaking English and, when I didn’t answer them, they would go into what sounded to me to be Dutch, maybe? But what was impressive wasthe ease at which they switched from one language to another without any hesitation that I could hear.
Before I could get my bearings, I had bought a cashmere sweater for $300 and a wallet for another $100, and thank goodness my cash had run out. I left their shop broke and saying to myself, “Aloysa is going to kill me.”
When I did finally find her buying pearls, I was right. She kept reminding me that I didn’t want to buy anything to begin with, and kept asking me how this happened that I spent $500 within thirty minutes. She also said that the belt and the wallet didn’t look like leather at all. Cashmere… till this day Aloysa has her doubts.
I am a person who doesn’t like to say no to people, and that is where I went wrong. This was the lesson that I learned in that Pearl market in China. I learned that I don’t know how to haggle the price of goods at all. I am not a person who can put a price on things because I don’t know what a decent price is.
My eyes have been opened for me and I know that I will not do this again. Mostly, because Aloysa is not going to let me carry all the cash. Ever.