Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Think I Died And Went To Zhongguancun

Posted By He Said

I have heard so much about the bargain shopping and huge electronics markets in Beijing as best described by Wikipedia. “The name Zhongguancun to Beijingers is an abbreviation for these markets, where pirated software, gray market imports, refurbished and DIY products and fakes are widely perceived as being as common as legitimate products.”

What I didn’t realize is that my apartment is a mere 10 minutes away from the center of this hub of electronics heaven.  On our way to our first hot pot dining experience at Xiabu Xiabu (Shawbu Shawbu) we walked into one of these markets in a skyscraper.  At the time I had no idea where I was and was not prepared for the experience.

Websites list these places as markets within markets.  I describe them as unbelievable overwhelming amazing electronic heaven. In fact, there are so many things to look at and explore that the mind and body is overwhelmed and stimulated near physical arousal.  Yeah, it really is that cool, and I didn’t even buy anything. Ok, we did, but it wasn’t electronic and Susanne didn’t even try to bargain.  She must have been feeling a little tingling sensation too!

Now don’t tell anyone about this video because you aren’t supposed to take pictures.  I know this because the sign that said so in Chinese had the English subtitle “Do Not Teke (sic) Pictures”. But I took this before I knew where I was or had read any signs.

Today we were out walking and we explored a store called Off-Price Shopping Mall (上品优价百货).  This was like a Marshalls on steroids, with 7 levels.  The top level being a food court.  After a major disappointment that the 2 electronics levels were closed (whether temporarily or not I cannot say). This was the store I had been told to go to for good deals that could be trusted. When you ask locals if they would shop at the other e-markets the answer is either “If I go with you and you know what you want” or “no, they are crooks, they cheat you!”  So, with nothing else to do and me itchin’ for an electronics fix we we headed back to the area where I had recorded the crazy video above.

That’s when we met the Camera and PC pimps.  As we waited to cross the street two men approached us and pitched their wares in Chinese.  “English” we say. They smile.  It’s like that look that Bruce the shark gets in Nemo right before he says “I’m having fish TONIGHT!”

“Ah, you need PC? Good deal,” and the other man says “Camera? Cannon, Cannon?” and the chase begins.  They follow us across the street as we keep saying “no, no, no”. This was the moment that we quickly learned to spot the electronics pimps and we learned the easiest way to avoid them is to ignore them or act like you don’t understand a word they are saying (which is most often the case).  They are everywhere, and if you could see the inside of this building you would understand why.

Imagine if you will a football field, and on that field in the endzone you put 5 to 10 small booths (some with only enough room for one person to sit in), each selling something slightly different.  One has iPhone accessories, the other Nokia, Laptops, Netbooks, PC hard drives, webcams and more.  Make up your own electronic dream market in that endzone.

Now copy and paste it until the entire field is filled with copy after copy of that small electronic end zone bazaar that you have imagined in your head.

Now double it.

Now, copy that and put it on 6 different floors.

Now realize that is only ONE of the “markets” we have explored.

I will wait while you let that sink in - oh, and to stop laughing at the fact that I used a sports object for this analogy.

Now in reality each floor is heavier in focus than others.  One floor would be all laptop and PC’s, another all phone accessories.  I must have passed 5 Apple Authorised Retailor’s(sic) alone. Yeah, I am a little suspicious about that myself.  I am still baffled that any of the vendors in these buildings make a living doing this. Maybe its because there are SO many people here that they can based on the fact that if one booth is too busy, you will just go to the next?  How can 50 places selling all the same stuff in the same building make a profit?

After lunch at a McDonalds (yeah, don’t laugh, we have kids in China) where we were lucky enough to be offered a seat by an English speaking Egyptian Pastor on a mission (there is a joke here somewhere),  we were contemplating where to get our next iFix when we read a sign warning against the “illegal vendor” iPimps. As if on cue as we stepped onto the escalator to the basement level a man practically snuggled up against me showing me his worn out HP business card (yeah, in Chinese, like that helps) and was trying to usher us to his basement computer store.  Susanne and I took one look around and thought it was time to climb back on the up escalator. 

The iPimps sign on the way to the basement was appropriately placed.

During our wandering Susanne’s Starbucks detector went off and we were swiftly escorted (ok, we ran after her, me scooping up the kids and screaming for her to slow down) to get a coffee. 

While Susanne was off with Braedyn making the sacrifice, Emily and I watched from inside as a Logitech marketer shouted something obviously very important to the Chinese crowd growing around her.  She kept holding up these bags with the Logitech logo and something white and bulky inside with the same logo printed on it. While I sipped my Mocha (which was frickin’ heavenly btw after the Lemon Lime Sprite Green Tea Surprise), the music started and three women danced in unison outside the window.  I don’t know what it was they were dancing for, all I know is I didn’t know enough Chinese to score one of the giveaway items.

A Logitech branded work napping pillow.

No comments:

Post a Comment