China is the production capital of the world. If you look at pretty much everything you own it is made in China. It suits their people well and suits the foundation of their society well. You don't have to think you just do and you don't bother complaining because no one cares. Just get on with the job. Part of me really likes that about here. No whining just a lot of doing.
China is also renowned for its copying. China manufactures all of the designer brands but it also copies them to sell to the less financially abundant... Like me! So I decided to brave my first Chinese fakes market. I caught the subway across the river to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum which is touted to have the best of all fakes markets in Shanghai. I was repeating the mantra of bartering in my head of "Whatever price they give you first, offer 25% of that price back, pay no more than 1/3 of the original offer." You got this CJ!
As I got off the subway I passed through the gates and just before I entered the hallways and malls of the underground I stopped, took out the money I had in my purse and stuffed it into my tights. Why? Was I afraid of pick pockets? No. I was, with sweaty palms, remembering my time in Bali when my bartering turned an ugly corner. This fear is why it has taken me so long to get to a fakes market here in Shanghai.
My first bartering experience was with my Uni friend, who is now a forever friend, Louise in Thailand. We went with our university on a study tour for nutrition. Louise and I had a fantastic time in the markets of Bangkok talking the friendly, if not a little desperate, Thai people down in price. Louise ended up with a pure silk hand woven dress for something like $10. She didn't really want it and offered a ridiculous and somewhat insulting price and after we walked off a lady came screaming, like a wounded cat down the market lane after us, waving the purple dress in her hand. Louise was crowned queen of bartering for that trip.
My Bali bartering experience was not so pleasant. I was there with my roomy and a few friends for her 30th birthday. The group of us went for a walk to look at the markets in Kuta. I walked into a store with lovely cotton kids clothing as I was looking for a summer dress for my niece. This is when it turned sour. Some ladies of the store kept showing me things deeper and deeper inside the store and before I knew it I was bailed up in the corner by 5 very little, but very scary ladies demanding my money. I had made the mistake of looking in my purse to see how much cash I had and they had a look too. I handed over about $40 Australian dollars and ran out of the store. I didn't bother to leave the resort after that unless it was in a taxi to go to a restaurant, I was too chicken.
Money stuffed down my tights, palms sweating I took my first steps into the mall. After three steps was approached by a man;
"Hey lady, you like watches, I got bags, Pradaaaa, Louis Witton (they can't say the 'v' sound), Goochi, lady we got for youuuuuu!"
"Errrrmmmm mayo shea shea-a." (No thank you) I wanted to scope everything out before I hit up a vendor.
"Oh come lady just follow me, we got the good stuff, I show you, come!" He had a friendly face and like a child following the flute of the pied piper I followed him. We snaked around through the mall and its back hallways. My heart was beating and my palms were even sweatier the further and further away we got from the subway exit. We came upon a small store with sunglasses and watches and as we walked in, the man pushed open the wall... Yes the wall and walked through to a room full of bags and purses. At this point I stopped. He had a secret store! Maybe this was the good stuff!? Jackpot! I momentarily forgot my Bali scars and continued in where I was greeted by a small petite lady.
"Hello lady. What brand you like? Goochee (Gucci), Herms (Hermes), Moo Moo (Miu Miu), Praadaa. We got for you. Come!" And another wall opened up. At this point I had a visceral response and I froze.
"Oh I don't want to go back there. I will just stay here thanks."
"Why lady? Don't you want to see the good stuff?"
"I'm ok thanks."
"You look nervous, you no nervous. You come."
"I am nervous because I had a bad time once."
"Here? No we good people."
So I went about explaining what happened in Bali with the little lady translating to the other workers and them looking shocked and laughing at the prospect of that happening here.
"It's ok lady, this is Shanghai nothing bad will happen. I promise. Now come!" Strangely comforted by her assurance I walked through the wall opening where I breathed in the smell of leather. Real leather! And another wall opened! And there they were... It was like one of those times in a movie where the character has an enlightening moment and a sun beam shines straight down on them and the music plays. That was me in this maze of bags and hidden chambers. The mother load of genuine rip off of this seasons, Gucci, Prada, Coach, Louis Vitton, Hermes, Miu Miu, Michael Kors, Ermangildo Zegna, Mulberry, Furla, Chanel and more were right in front of me. They were real leather and so close to the original that the only give away on the Michael Kors tote (that I have been wanting for a while) was the emblem dangling off the strap was fixed onto a piece of leather instead of being a solid piece of metal. I only know this because I had studied the bag before I went so that if I found the colour I liked I could choose the least fake looking one. Genius right?
I had a look at many of the different bags but none really caught my eye. They didn't have the colour I wanted in the Michael Kors bag so I went back into the first chamber where there were cheaper brands and more purses and laptop bags. This is where I saw a lovely Marc Jacobs bag, pastel pink and small. A good starting point. I hadn't brought much money with me so I could really only start small.
"How much for this one?"
"Oh lady we do you good price because we like you and you were scary in Bali. 450RMB!"
"Oh that is expensive. I don't think so. Thanks anyway."
"Ok ok you tell me price."
"Final price for you 400!"
"No 200 is the most I will pay" and she immediately replied
"Ok" and stuffed it into a bag and handed it to me. I about fell over. That was WAY too easy! I should have gone harder! It was a little over the 1/3rd rule but I will know for next time. So for $37AUD I have a lovely pink leather Marc Jacobs shoulder bag. I took my bag and walked out and snaked back through the hallways and walkways into the main part of the fakes mall. I walked around to see what else was available.
There was everything from silk scarves to shoes to toys and electronics. You name the brand and it was here. Being so early in the morning there was hardly a soul in the mall so it was easy to see who had what and the workers seemed sleepy so I wasn't pestered much at all. It was good to dip my toe back into the bartering scene. Now I am ready for some serious shopping!