Shopping with a guy – How many women out there are giving a knowing sigh and telling smile?
Mostly, my male shopping experiences have been with my dad during our family’s Christmas gift-buying sprees to Terre Haute’s Honey Creek Square. My dad would set a time limit and off he’d go on his own, purposefully marching into the mall crowds to disappear until the 2 hours was up. (Yes, 2 hours was all allotted to any of us with my dad in tow. And, yes, he would always return laden with every item he wanted). Meanwhile, my mom and I would be left to meander aimlessly about, taking in all the shops had to offer and discussing what would be a good present for so-and-so, if that price was too much, if another store would have it cheaper or in a different color or a different style. We knew 2 hours wasn’t enough for us to do any serious buying. Our holiday shopping would take place on a non-Dad day, one where he was at home watching his ball games and we were left to our own devices cruising the whole mall the entire day.
Among my Chinese female colleagues, I’ve heard similar reports about their husbands or boyfriends. I’ve never had any expertise in the Asian culture concerning men and shopping. That is, I didn’t until this past weekend, when Mr. Chen (the school’s treasurer), co-teacher Cici (Ms. Yin) and I headed out on a roasting Friday to purchase a wardrobe, dresser, coffee table and couch to finally begin furnishing my apartment.
After a very swift 1-hour shopping whirlwind, I can now say that shopping with a man, at least in this woman’s brief experiences, seems to be a universal.
Furniture Shopping in Luzhou
In Luzhou, there are several big furniture stores that boast 2 and 3 floors of everything imaginable you’d want with which to appoint a new home. They carry with them very pricey, fancy, modern stuff which is better suited for those who have money to spend.
When it comes to us common folk, who are just happy with the basic generic items — the no frills or fancy designs sort of furnishings — it’s best to hit the sports stadium area. All around the outside of the stadium are tiny mom-and-pop shops stocked with everything from mattresses, beds, dressers and wardrobes to dining room tables, sofas and wheeled kitchen cabinets. Almost all the stores hold the same sort of furniture in numerous colors, which makes it easy to bargain with different owners to get the cheapest price.
For my school apartment, we all agreed that the cheaper stuff would be just fine.
The Adventure Begins
The school’s private car dropped the 3 of us off beside the sports stadium, then left us to our own devices on how to get back.
Cici and I were eager to enter into the many 1-room shops awaiting us. We had visions of leisurely checking out each wardrobe, opening doors and drawers, considering space for clothes, analyzing the size of dresser mirrors, testing out the comfiness, material and design of couches . . . In other words, we women were up for shopping!
But Mr. Chen, loaded down with the money and a man’s mentality on how to go about doing things, was of a different opinion on furniture shopping. His method was all by initial sight. If it looked too big or fancy from a distance, leave it be. Go to the next place.
So while Cici and I entered every shop to inspect items, Mr. Chen was whizzing about ahead of us, scouting out wardrobe and dresser sets which would sell cheaper than if we bought things separately. Never mind color, space, or design. Go for practical use at a bargain rate.
And do it fast.
I’ve never seen a guy charge about with such speed in my life. A man with a purpose, on a targeted mission!
Sometimes we’d finally catch up to him while he rather impatiently waited for us to appear in his shopping area. He’d whisk me over, throw open the wardrobe doors and announce, “How about this one? Very strong! Nice material.”
Well, considering there wasn’t any drawer space and there were only places to hang clothes, not store sweaters or bedding, I guess it would do for a guy, but a woman? I don’t think so.
The dresser was becoming yet another sticking point. The problem was with the mirrors. They were only usable if you were sitting, not standing, plus the colors and designs quite childish: bright pink spattered with hearts, waves of sea-blue with little kitty cats, white splashed with multi-colored polka dots. Just really not suitable for anyone with my Western taste.
I must admit that with Mr. Chen’s hustling us about, I did wonder if we’d really end up getting anything at all. My continuous reminders to Mr Chen about what I was looking for in a wardrobe, dresser and couch just seemed to fall on deaf ears. How could anyone, scanning items that quickly without even a second look or close inspection, really expect to find me what I wanted?
But guess what?
Amazingly enough, in the 10th shop, it was Mr. Chen who spied exactly what I was looking for: a huge wardrobe with 5 doors, 3 large compartments, spaces above for bedding and sweater storage, spaces below for shoes and what-not, rods for hanging clothes and a middle area for even more storage. Not only that but a matching dresser with a decent mirror sat directly beside it.
Granted, the two were a little blah. It was definitely a man’s bedroom furniture set: dark brown, tree-bark trim with faux wood-paneled sheets of a light birch color. Plus dull metal handles appointed on both pieces. The matching dresser, while the mirror was great, had only two small drawers. I decided I could forgo little drawers for a large mirror.
Mr. Chen, quite pleased with his find, then began the bargaining with the owner. Cici stepped in and added her expertise as well. There was a lot of excited price exchanging in heated voices, whining on the part of Cici, scowling from Mr. Chen, head-shaking by the owner and me, off to the side, observing and thoroughly enjoying all their go-to-it antics.
There is nothing in the world as entertaining as watching Chinese bargain. It’s much more fun to do it yourself but for this shopping spree, I let the experts handle it.
For both, the original 1,300 yuan ($161) finally came down to 960 yuan ($145).
A very satisfying deal for all involved.
The couch was much easier to purchase because I’d already scouted out the area days before. The one I had chosen was a dark wine red with the ability to fold down into a bed. Since my place is so small, if I ever have guests, I thought it would be convenient to have something that converted into a bed. This one did.
Another bargaining session took place from another shop owner and the couch was purchased for 500 yuan ($80) instead of the $100 which was first asked.
All’s Well that Ends Well
After arranging furniture delivery the next day, we all departed. Cici went home, Mr. Chen hightailed it back to the school and I went grocery shopping in the downtown district.
I couldn’t believe that in a mere hour, we had bought exactly what I had wanted at a great price. I guess we can thank Mr. Chen for that. Despite my disdain for his male-oriented way of speed shopping, which was in stark contrast to my careful consideration method, his approach succeeded beautifully.
Sure, women can bemoan that purposeful, impatient men-shopping universal, but I’d have to say, in this case anyway, it certainly proved itself worthwhile.
From Luzhou, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your weekend.