Shanghai Farewell Tour-The “Mule” Hits The Market

“Take Thom as collateral”.  Please.  I offered my hubster earnestly to the scarf lady who wanted 100 RMB to ensure we would stay and wait for her to retrieve our requested 200+ scarves I wanted to buy.  As Fiona interpreted, she shook her head fiercely in protest, indicating that the crazy Laowai was not a good trade–we settled on 20 RMB which tells you what Thom is really worth.  Just saying, sweetie–Chinese perspective.  Nothing personal.

With rolling suitcase and multiple Ikea blue bags in tow, we journeyed to the South Bund Fabric Market to bargain the day away.  Now, I’ve been known to be called the “Mule” at the markets and today was no exception.  No comment, those of you who know me.  Note–I have also been called a “bulldog” at work but that’s another story.  Funny, I never get compared to the quiet, beautiful animals like a swan or cuddly ones like the panda.  Hmmm…

I started with Thom’s favorite Tibetan lady (gal in the red in the pic) with her jewelry spread out on several blankets outside the market–you get a better price if the vendor isn’t paying for stall rent.  Having previously bought a few pieces, I knew the price and pieces I was looking for–no  more than 25 RMB ($4 US) and lower is better.  Unfortunately the Tibetan lady didn’t stock quantity in any items so on to the next blanket.  The word spread fast that I was a “buyer” and the vendors put two and two together with Thom watching over our large suitcase…. this Laowai had some RMB to lay down!  Let the stampede begin.

Let the negotiating (and screaming) begin!
Let the negotiating (and screaming) begin!

They started rushing me with similar necklaces to the one I had picked up to check out.  I finally found one gal who had some multiple units of what I was looking to buy for our accessory business that Thom/James will run in the US online plus I was buying for my friend Patti to start her own business back in the wilds of Indiana.  God Bless Fiona who just laid into it with her as the bargaining began and quickly became heated.  As the Mule with the RMB, I kept shaking my head and using my best Mandarin bargaining phrases that always come in handy.  A couple watching it all go down (guy in blue shirt) wanted Fiona to help them too but she waved them off–she is our bulldog negotiator.  I did share with the nice folks what they should be paying so they didn’t get ripped off.  I’m nice like that–sharing the “Mule” tips to the world.

We got what we wanted and a few stink eye glares from the vendor (white/black check shirt gal) who still took my RMB.  I was disappointed not to get all I wanted but I'[l go back to the AP market, where I have found it’s easier to find 10/20 units of the same necklace, which fits our online store concept model better.  Thom’s so excited-more shopping and carrying bags.  Oh Joy!

Then, it was off to the back local street to gather up 200+ scarves for 8 RMB ($1.33) each for really nice prints on large cotton-like scarves.  At first overwhelmed at picking out 25 or so patterns, I quickly starting using my print radar to pick out the best on the cart.  Fiona told me later that the local women were watching my selection process and, drawing a crowd, immediately started buying whatever I was choosing–the crazy Laowai lady must know her stuff, right???  Thom swears his very presence attracted the ladies but we all know better.

Scarf explosion
Scarf explosion

After refusing Thom as collateral, off the vendor went to her home to get the stock we needed–back in 30 minutes she promised.  A hour and a half later, she finally showed up with LOTS of scarves in tow.  While we waited for her, the vendor’s mom told us we needed to straighten the scarf display as we had messed it up with our selection frenzy.  Sure, no problem, I got this.  I have many, many years of retail experience.  After just a few folds, the lady told Fiona to tell me to STOP!  It seems that I may need some scarf display lessons as she suggested to Fiona that NO ONE WOULD BUY the scarves I was rolling up to stack on the table.  Okay, message received.  After I had paid for my many scarves, though, everyone was all smiles.  Good day at the market for all!

3 thoughts on “Shanghai Farewell Tour-The “Mule” Hits The Market

  1. Awesome post! Going to markets in a foreign land is always one of my favorite activities. I know a lot of the merchandise is “commercialized” and not really authentic, but when you find that one stand/vendor who you can tell hand made everything she sold, it’s as if you’ve found travelers gold.

    I don’t know if this was the intention of your post, but this gave me a lot of useful tips! When you said blankets out side of markets usually have better prices because they don’t have to pay for stall rent, I would never have thought of that!

    Thanks for posting 🙂 Cheers!

    1. I don’t know the name of the street but it if you go to the South Bund Fabric market and then go the back way to get to the Cool Docks, you will see all the local tailors doing their sewing right on the street and that is where the scarf lady is. Wander around–you’ll have fun!

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