Maybe I’m just a snooty Hong Konger

After an afternoon of wandering along Shanghai’s famous shopping street (南京西路) and in and out of no less than five malls, I’ve realized why mainlanders are obsessed with going to Hong Kong to shop. There’s simply nothing to buy here. I know one day and the length of four metro stations might not yield a rigorous enough sample of shops, but go into (almost) any Hong Kong mall with an open mind and a couple hundred in cash and you’ll most likely come out with more than a bottle of 乌龙茶 (Oolong tea) and a box of (Watsons, might I add) side-sealed facial puffs. Where are the everyman malls? Or is it simply that in China, malls are only for the rich? I could get better deals in Canada, sales tax notwithstanding.

Also, what is with people’s 服务态度? This country obviously missed Hong Kong’s giant ad campaign about the necessity of good service. Trying to return a rice cooker (because the pan interior had no measuring lines) at Carrefour today was a nightmare. (Carrefour is SH’s upscale Walmart, with signs all over the place telling you that you can get a refund with your receipt “If you change your mind within 7 days of purchase”. How generous.)

First I was met with (in Mandarin, of course):
“What’s wrong with the rice cooker?”
“Nothing, I bought the wrong one.”
“You can’t return it if it doesn’t have any problems.” (Note that I returned a wok earlier this week with no questions asked.)
“It doesn’t have numbers.” (I didn’t know how to say measuring lines.)

She ignored me for a while, until I asked her again if I could return it. With an exasperated sigh, she said something into a walkie-talkie and five minutes later this guy showed up.

“What’s wrong with it?”
“It doesn’t have numbers. I don’t want it anymore.” (i.e. I changed my freaking mind.)
I pointed at the picture on the box, and drew lines with my finger.
“Oh. You can’t get a refund.”
“How come? The sign says [stumbling in Mandarin now] you can return it for whatever reason.”
[With a sneer] “Are you Chinese?”
At this point I could no longer stand communicating in a language I hadn’t mastered, so I told him what it says on the sign, in English.
“I don’t know what you just said.”
“Is there anyone here who speaks English?”


Then I was led downstairs to the appliances section, where three salespeople who didn’t speak English were standing around. The dude briefly described my situation, and they opened up the box–“Have you used it?” “No, I haven’t used it”–and asked me why I wanted to return it. I asked them what the big deal was. One of them, inspecting its contents, told me I could exchange it for another one, pointing to a rice cooker double the price of the old one. At that point I was so irritated that they’d wasted all this time that I told them I don’t want to buy another one now, I just don’t want this one. The woman then got really angry, shoved the box into my hands, and told me that if I return this don’t ever come back to buy another one, and that I have to bring it upstairs myself to get a refund.

Bring it upstairs to get a refund? That’s precisely what I tried to do in the first place. And yeah, don’t expect me to ever come back for appliances (though I might send Sean, hah).

I don’t want to think any less of this city, or to be constantly judging it, but I’m sick of being constantly pushed around like I’m the one who’s being ridiculous.

Sorry, Shanghai, but you have a long way to go.


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