Sunday, March 08, 2009

Biased against Bargaining

Just came from walking around Shanghai , and one of the things that ticked me off the most was the incessant haggling by the merchants. I don't like haggling as it is back at home; the most I would do would be to ask for the last price and that's it.

But here, they can get pretty aggressive. Once, I was just looking around for a possible passport holder, and then they took me to a secluded area, which effectively gave them more control (my friend was with me, but this took us out of the open). I really just wanted to look, and after them insisting that they buy the stuff and quoting my price, I finally gave in, paying almost twice I would pay at home just so they would stop. Although the price was also 1/3 or 1/4 of the price they were quoting, they were all ranting that I couldn’t make money out of them, blah blah blah. Effectively I felt that I'd been had.

Another time I was walking outside Nanjing Road when I noticed a shoe-shine man. He asked if I wanted to, but I motioned no, waving my hand. The guy kept on following me and asking if he wanted to have a shoe shine! Argh!!! I had to trot back to Nanjing Road to lose him there.

A while ago, I decided to take another friend's advice and buy a real branded item at Nanjing Road. As I was walking out with the bag, another merchant came up to me, offering to sell watches, clothes, much cheaper than what I had. Thing is, even when I said no, she was following me! I went into another store to try to lose her, but when I came out, she still followed. I hate saying no and when it came out, it was rather forceful because I was so exasperated. So she moved along, and in a less than 10 meters, another merchant came up again to offer electronics, iPods, digicam?

If I wanted something, I would approach the store and ask for it. I hate it back at home when salesladies tag along to ask if you want to buy something, but this is worse. If you don’t become forceful, they'll follow you everywhere.

Foreigners' Feelings on La Filipinas

Because of the Shanghai trip, it was inevitable that we would be working with non-Filipinos (duh!). These weren't just the Shanghai Chinese who've been in China all there lives, but also white guys assigned to the company and Chinese how have been to the Philippines a few years back.

Believe me, the things that we rant about online, they also experience it. The white guy, for example, he's been in the Philippines long enough to get ticked off at the corruption under the benevolent gaze of the Empress. And he's not even Filipino! He acknowledges that there are levels of corruption everywhere. For example, back in his native land, there were investigations for suppliers taking out clients for dinner and games. If you were a Filipino reading this, you'd know that this is one of the mildest forms of pay-offs, people do worse things, and nobody gets caught for anything.

As for the Chinese guy who's been here, he recognizes that being Chinese in Manila can make you a target for kidnappings, that the white guys in Manila are usually poor while the Filipino Chinese are either the rich or the very rich. He was also appalled by all the guys carrying guns around, down to the security guns having 12 gauge shotguns. I've noticed here in Shanghai that not even the police carry guns; I have yet to see a member of the PLA, but overall, no guns around here.

It seems like a common occurrence when Filipinos are talking about our country to foreigners, that we tend to highlight all the bad things, like the crime, the poverty, the corruption, the weather, and what have you. I don’t know if it's because they're seeing something better (either through speaking to the foreigner or living in a foreign land or both), but stuff that a Filipino would take for granted at home would suddenly find release as long as an interested foreigner is willing to listen.

It's rather sad that only the foreigners seem to enjoy the republic of bananas, since whatever they have to go through (the traffic, the weather, the occasional harassment, etc.), their exchange rate is more than enough to compensate for their troubles and to actually bypass some of the worse aspects of living here (cramped and expensive homes, poor water, little healthcare). As for the rest of us living on Filipino income, we have to go through the whole experience, so it's pretty hard to enjoy the good life at times.