Saturday, March 27, 2004

99-Cent Store Injustice

I'm used to shopping at high-end stores in Beijing, with my salary, it's almost a given. Here, I'm relegated to bargain-hunting at the 99-cent store. There is a really popular one on one of the main thoroughfares. It's a mystery to me why it is so crowded all the time; it offers the same mass-produced stuff that you feel compelled to own because each is less than a dollar. The owner and his employees are the rudest I have seen outside of state-owned stores in China. (Nowadays even state-owned stores' employees have to put on a happy face to deal with customers, since their pay are becoming more and more sales-based.) I thought salespersons in America would be more motivated, but I was naive about immigrant neighborhoods and this particular type of intra-immigrant snobbery.

One woman was looking for envelopes or some other item, her English wasn't fluent enough to convey her meaning, so the Indian cashier asked her in Chinese what she meant. The cashier's tone, though, was dripping with derision. As if she had no time to deal with 99-cent store shoppers -- yet she is the operator of one! I will hereby boycott this store -- until the next time when I need a cheap light bulb, or a 16-piece eraser set with a Hello Kitty design...

Third World countries' expatriates should help each other out, instead of judging each other based on supposed wealth. Do immigrants enjoy seeing their fellow FOBs' stunted dreams and crushed hopes manifested via shopping for cheap crap? Is there a the-more-they-suffer-the-less-I-feel-my-own-suffering mentality here? I believe this is how the colonialists got so many people to stay docile back in the old days. Britain had its "divide-and-conquer" theory, which worked on India and Pakistan...except now we have internalized it, so we divide and defeat ourselves.

I'm definitely under-stimulated intellectually when a random errand turns me into an activist.

I might not write for a few days...getting busier and busier with both jobs. Dan Ming also mentioned some import/export business he's trying to start, and he's asking me to help. He's trying to distribute terra cotta soldier statues here. I doubt there is a market, but we'll see.