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Cheap doesn't mean you have a bargain!
Read more of Cindy Vine!
I give you good price!
For the past couple of days I've been getting headaches and migraines. I know that my fringe has grown too long as any time my hair is anywhere near my eyes I get headaches. As I live in the wop wops outside Nanjing, to go to a decentish hairdresser for a trim, I have to spend $7 on taxi fare going into town and another $7 to come back. The hairdresser will charge anything between $10-$20 to trim your hair. Granted, they usually give a great scalp massage and sometimes shoulder massage as well. However, after having spent all day in the cold wind keeping the time in lane 4 at school sports day, I was not inclined to venture into town. This left me with two choices - continue to suffer with my headaches or go to the cheap and nasty local hairdresser next to the corner supermarket. To save time, and just to get rid of the bothersome hair, I chose the cheaper alternative as I am currently on a belt-tightening not spending money mission.
The hairdressing salon was empty. About 8 staff members were lounging about inside the salon. Some were playing cards, some were noisily slurping up noodles and some were just lounging, doing nothing at all staring blankly at the peeling paint on the wall. I should have walked straight out. There has to be a reason why in a subdivision full of university students, nobody was frequenting the hairdressing salon. I just wanted to get shot of the heavy fringe and get home to watch American Idol, so I entered the salon. Suddenly, all eight people in the salon stopped what they were doing, removed their blank looks and gave me a welcoming smile. With relief I allowed myself to be led to a grubby grey torn recliner chair to get my hair washed. No scalp massage, no offer of a conditioner, just a basic workmanlike performance by a young dude with an anime character hairdo that must have used a bucket full of hair gel to keep the spikes in place.
I was given a choice. An unexperienced hairdresser for $1.50 or an experienced hairdresser for $2. I elected to undo my belt a couple of notches and go for the more expensive option. I do have to look presentable otherwise my students will laugh at me and not take my lessons seriously. A very short stocky man with an elaborate hairdo straight out of the eighties New Romantic era, that would have made Adam Ant cream his rods, approached me with a silver pair of scissors. At least he had the right equipment. As I couldn't speak Chinese and nobody in the salon could speak English, I gestured and grunted to show what needed to be done to my hair. Snippety snip and Adam Ant's scissors flew. Locks of my hair flew to the ground. When it was all over and I dared to open my eyes, I saw that I bore an uncanny resemblance to one of the Beatles. However, at least my hair was out of my eyes, so it wasn't all bad. And if I brushed my fringe back it might not look like someone had put a pot on my head and cut around it. But this got me thinking. In China and other places where they say "I give you good price," you often get what you pay for.
Fake markets and fake products
Cheap does not mean that you get a bargain. In China, you are constantly presented with fake items. Some are real with slight defects or fell off the back of a truck, but most are fake. Sometimes, it's difficult to tell the difference between what is real and what is fake. Everywhere you go, there are hawkers on street corners, or fake markets selling fake products. You can buy Prada or Gucci sunglasses for $3, a Coach handbag for $7, dvds not yet on the big screen for under a dollar, Chanel perfume for $7 and many other items which cost a fortune in the west.
Shopping in Shanghai's fake market under the Science and Technology Museum needs at least a whole day as you amble through store after store stocked with fake products, which the vendors always assure you, are real. Bargaining is essential. Westerners are regarded as walking ATM machines and they'll always start high with the prices. You have your eye on a pair of Ugg Boots, they'll start off with $100. Your reaction? I always find it best to laugh hysterically, and they'll quickly drop the price. Start walking away and they'll follow you with the calculator and ask you for your 'best price.' Set an impossibly low price and stick to it. Chances are, if you are adamant that you're not paying a cent more than your lowest price, you'll get it at that.
I have to say, the Timberland boots and Ugg Boots we bought and only paid $20 have proved to be excellent buys. The quality was good and they've lasted. However, the ipod nanos we bought for $10 didn't fare as well. One worked for a week, one for a day and another wouldn't let us load music on it so it didn't work at all. Now I have an I-phone which only cost $100 at the fake market. So far, everything seems to work. Is it real or fake? It's hard to tell. Sometimes what you think you got as a bargain, you'll find much cheaper in another fake store, or, it will break within a week.
Some of the clothing shrinks in the wash. The leather bag you bought, the 'leather' starts to peel away and you're left with ugly plastic blotches. In three years here I've bought 4 dvd players. All of them only costing about $20 each. The first lasted 6 months, the second lasted a year, the third lasted 1 month, and the best of all, the one in my son's bedroom and the one that has probably had the most use, has lasted the full three years. It's just a matter of luck. However, I am always a little dubious when I am in the West and see things with the label, Made In China. mind you, the stuff they export from here is much better than the fake crap they sell locally.
Cheaper doesn't always mean you get a bargain, as you run the risk of it being poor quality and breaking very quickly, like my ipods and dvd players. However, my son's fake Vans have lasted 2 years and had some hard use, as has his fake Converse. The fake markets in Shanghai and other major cities in China do offer great shopping. You can end up spending a lot of money as everything is so unbelievably cheap. But, do be aware, that at least 50% of what you buy won't work properly or won't last long. Or you might end up getting a haircut that makes you look like a Beatle!