25 September, 2013

Shanghai Sagas – Of Cheap Goods and Qip Routes

When I first acknowledged that I’ll be going to China, the first thought which came to my mind was Cheap Fake Goods. Isn’t this what their economy thrives on? Isn’t that what they are good at? Isn’t this where all brands and fake-brands are made?
I remembered reading an article claiming that there was a fake Apple store in China whose employees didn’t know for an entire year that the store was fake. I thought to myself that if they are so good at creating duplicate goods, which surely work as well as the branded stuff, then why let Nike and Adidas rip me off. Why not pay for a shoe which feels like paying for a shoe rather than feeling that I’ve just paid for a Lamborghini.
So from day 1, my hunt for the fake markets began. Surely it would have to be well camouflaged to avoid the eyes of the real brands. After some hunt and pestering my Chinese friends, the thing turned out to be a no-brainer. All I had to do was understand the Pinyin script of Mandarin. There was a mark on the map as a tourist destination called Qipu which at once looks like a Chinese restaurant alley. But as soon as I replace the “Q” with the Pinyin “Chi”, it clicks. I had to go to Cheapu market.
As soon as I get out of the Tiatong station, people horde around me flashing catalogues in my face. What do you want? T-shirt? Shoes? Nike Shoes? Jeans? You want Jeans? What do you want? Being Indian I was used to such brokers and figured best to avoid them. I went into the building which looked like a Mall but it had the cheapest shops ever, once you bargained of course. A shop selling traditional Chinese shirts caught my eye and I went in. It had some really well-designed low-quality Chinese-looking outfits. I figured I could bargain for sport. I found a shirt and asked for the price. 680¥ the shopkeeper began. It would’ve been 680 had it been a good quality branded thing, but this wasn’t. 50¥, I started. Now what followed is not a scene for my young readers, but if you do really want to know, this guy puts it in the best possible way. Trust me, I’m not kidding.
Ultimately, after 20 minutes of bargain which at a point involved the Chinese guy taking my hand and putting it on his throat to try to tell me that I was killing him at that price, we settled on 80¥. I still felt I could’ve brought him down on 60¥, but I’m not that good at bargaining. Suddenly, I wished my sisters were there with me. Anyway, when we settled on the price, I realized that I was doing this for sport. I didn’t really want to buy this thing. So I told the guy Xie Xie (Thank you), and dashed out of the place, while the guy was screaming something after me which resembled an English ‘Come back you #$^&#*.
Now I knew why Indians were rarely taken seriously in China. We did this for a sport. Spending 20 minutes with the guy, bringing him down by 600¥, i.e. about 100$, and then leaving without buying. Surely many have done this before me, and many will be there doing the same thing after me. Well, I didn’t feel too bad about it. The jackass quoted the price 600¥ higher than what he was willing to sell it at. You keep a profit margin but there’s a margin. I know what you have is fake. It doesn’t even have a brand logo on it! Don’t try to kid me.
But now I knew how to buy from China and by how much were they willing to come down. As I walked through the market, I saw everything a human could possibly use being sold in that market. And once you bargained, it was at unbelievable prices. Later I was told that this isn’t one of the big markets of China. Shanghai is not much of a manufacturing center. If I really wanted to buy like an exporter or a wholesaler and wished to see the heart of the Chinese market, I should go to the manufacturing areas like Yiwu, Ghanzou, Shenzen, etc.
With passing days, I discovered more markets less obvious and more cheap than Cheapu. Cheapu, being a giveaway, was more of a touristy high-priced area. The inner parts of Shanghai held more secret alleyways with some of the cheapest shops I’ve ever seen. Perhaps some of the cheapest in the world.
This country lives up to its claim of being the manufacturing unit of the world. The Communist party is spearheading China’s economy. Maybe there is a merit to a single-party no-opposition rule. When you rule alone, you’re responsible and you try to take your territory forward in the race of development, by one way or the other.