Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

We all know that a healthy level of competition is good. It keeps us alert, focused and can often help to make even the most mundane of tasks a little more exciting. That’s all good and well, but I’ve passed the stage of healthy competition a LONG time ago; to the point where it can become a threat, not only to my reputation, but also to my safety and to the personal bodily integrity of those around me.

Since I turn everyday activities into competitive duels, you do not want to see what happens when I am actually involved in some sort of “real” competition. I have actually forcibly removed myself on numerous occasions from “friendly” board games owing to my condition. It’s difficult, especially when people are doing badly. I break into a cold sweat; start chewing on my gums and grinding my teeth. People invite me to join, but I equate that to someone offering a recovering drug addict a quick line.

Competition is like a drug to me; one which affects me in a very different way to most others. While most people manage to control their emotion, I just can’t. The game will undoubtedly end in one of two ways. In the first scenario, I will either be unleashing profanities at my ignorant team mates, my cheating competitors or at the game itself for having ludicrous rules when I lose. If I do win, then there will be just as much profanity, but simply directed as abuse towards my fallen opponents. Either way, there will be tears or no further board games or future invites for that matter.

Since I am now running out of places for healthy competition with people who know me (or wish they didn’t) I need to create my own competitions with strangers. One great place to meet unnamed combatants is while shopping. I often eye someone out; sidle my trolley in beside theirs; give them the nod acknowledging that I accept their challenge to a competitive “shop-off”.

They’ll be grabbing an item off the shelf. I’ll grab two. They’ll take a 500g tub. I’ll take the 10kg Family pack (who really needs that much mayonnaise anyway). They’ll grab some green peppers. I’ll grab ten (even though I hate green peppers and am deathly allergic – these are the sacrifices a true competitor has to make). If they take the last of an item I’ll either steal it out of their trolley or find a way to crush the item, nullifying their strategic advantage (it’s all just tactics). You would think that this kind of behaviour would get me kicked out of the store, but the shop owners love the fact that I buy more than anyone else. You hear that? Yeah! They Love me ‘cos I’m the best! In your face!

I race old ladies across busy intersections. I open up giant franchise refreshment stations next to little kids’ lemonade stands (or buy them out if they refuse to leave).

I turn everything into a competition. Who can brush their teeth faster? Who can stay up later? Who can drive towards oncoming traffic the longest? I don’t know why I do it. Maybe it’s to impress people or just to remind everyone how awesome I am, but people don’t seem that impressed that I always come first – in the bedroom, women especially so.

The key though is always to remain humble, which I am. In fact I’m probably the most humble person in the country, if not the world. I’m WAY more humble than you!

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As I’m certain most will know Thailand is renowned for its shopping and I have to admit I was underprepared for what I saw. First of all there are traditional markets all over and while most will carry the same generic tourist bait such Buddha statues, masks and postcards some markets will often specialise in certain items. Some of the most exotic looking food I have every come across exists at some of these markets and I would love to let you know what it all tasted like but even if I had been brave enough to try more, there was just too much on offer.

One particular market that was quite unique was the floating market at Damnoen Saduak which consisted of several canoes all floating past each other stocked to the brim with their wares. As a group, one would rent a canoe and idle past these vendors until one would literally pull you in “tractor beam” style and perform their sales pitch in broken English. While this was quite unique and a most memorable experience I can see why most shopping malls don’t use this format of commerce as it took us about 90mins to travel about 100m with each and every vendor sucking us in for their shot at making a sale.

Another reason this type of sales technique wasn’t too successful was that you had such a limited amount of time to not only differentiate anything interesting from the aforementioned cracker jacks, but in the remaining seconds one could do very little bartering.

Bartering is probably the most distinct aspect of shopping in Thailand and I can’t think of a single time where we paid the asking price. After probably paying far too much the first few times or getting “rinsed” as a young British couple referred to I, we developed some techniques that were quite ingenious (or at least we thought they were).
Without giving away too much, one technique was to have one of us purchase a small item to work out what the discount percentage was. For example if a pair of sunglasses was marked 300 baht and we said we’d pay 150 baht. If the sales person agreed without checking with the store owner we knew that we could pretty much offer half of the asking price without a problem. It became a game to try and hit the “sweet spot”; that price that was low enough to avoid a “rinsing” and not too low that we received under the breath insults in Thai. The key indicator, it seemed, was if the salesperson spoke to the manager whether he could accept our offer.

While I wish we hadn’t spent so much money on the small markets before we went to the biggest mall in Thailand on our last day of our holiday, I’m glad we had some practice at bartering before we were thrown into the feeding frenzy that is the 7 storey monolith known as MBK.

MBK is a testament to capitalism and melting pot of Western and Eastern sensibilities. You will find every brand name on the planet, but whether it is genuine or a “same same but different” would take a forensic team to decipher. It really is a shopper’s fantasy so as long as you can deal with the fact that you are probably not buying the genuine article (for example a pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers that melted on the way home). We bought so much that we had to purchase more luggage to take it all home. The mall has hundreds of shops as well as stalls and markets covering every square inch of the centre. We were so exhilarated by the experience and to unleash our new bartering prowess that on more than one occasion we had to be calmed down by employees of certain stores to be told that “the price seen is the price paid” when we tried to negotiate the price we were willing to pay at restaurants. Oh well… if you don’t shoot you don’t score.

The most difficult part was convincing the South African customs officials that we had brought these goods into Thailand in the first place…especially the “I heart Thailand” shirts.