“That man has a monkey!”
“Ok, don’t bother him” I said as we walked out into the grey square of Luo Hu.
“I don’t want you involved in his…monkey stuff.” I flapped my hand to gesture the mystique of a man sitting right outside the train station with a pet monkey.
“His monkey business?”
Luo Hu Commercial City was in probably every trip advisor review that we had found about Shenzhen, and I can see why. It was the most tourist accessible building, about five feet away from the exit of the train station, a concrete monster that was twice as wide as it was tall.
Trip Advisor gave us different stores to visit, but I had forgotten all of them because the minute I stepped foot into the building we were accosted by people trying to get us to buy something. Someone would mutter and shove cards and flyers as we passed, others would follow us around, up and down escalators, through the scary maze that considered itself a mall.
We went all the way to the top, six floors up, looking down I spotted my first mark: an electronics store. I had a small shopping list for myself and my parents. How much could I accomplish with $100 US?
He pulled the GoPro down, english emblazoned on the front: ULTRA HD ACTION CAM WIFI
All haggling is done via calculators and calculator apps.
He typed in 400 and showed it to me.
I cleared it and typed in 40.
He tried 300, I tried 60.
When he said he wouldn’t go any lower I brought up the truth: “This is much cheaper on taobao.”
Throughout the day, taobao was my trump card, I could pull up a taobao listing fast enough, and the price would plummet to something more reasonable.
The only good Supreme is knock off Supreme. I wanted a Supreme wallet but couldn’t see any wallets, eventually I spotted the bag and asked if they had the obnoxious red Supreme wallet.
She handed me catalogs taped together with every item from every luxury brand, four or five catalogs deep that were the size of phone books. “I can get anything for you in minutes.” She said tapping the books with her manicured fingers (the salon was two floors above us, if I wanted).
I picked out the supreme wallet I wanted and she picked up an old nokia phone and called the warehouse, her runner was gone out the door in a flash, a girl that was probably seventeen at most, was off to the mythical warehouse.
A moment later, another girl appeared, with a metal briefcase a la James Bond and opened it up to show me about twenty models of Rolexes.
We both said no, showing our apple watches.
“Are those real?” The shop girl asked
“Yes.” We insisted.
A few moments later, after assuring me that I was beautiful, my skin was clear, I looked young, and my brother was fit (I suppose Steve and I look similar?) she took note of my shoes.
“I know where you got those, at the shop upstairs?”
“No, these are real.” I said, a bit exasperated, everything on me was coming under suspicion and I had paid a lot for these Nikes.
“Oh, yes, they look real!”
Our iPhones later, were also asked if they were real, and yes, they were. The trouble with buying a fake Supreme thing for irony is that suddenly the rest of you must be fake too.
I got the wallet for $15, down from $110.
I saw fakes of my shoes later, on the floor upstairs.
There’s no flexing in Shenzhen because everything can be faked, so even if you have a rare sought after item, it makes you look no better than every other hypebeast that’s visited the stall on the next floor up.
Haggling often is conducted from ten feet away, and in the case of the last store I wanted to visit (I was tired, and nervous. All the people following us around trying to sell us purses, watches, and suits was getting to me) in the halls of the mall.
“Come on, I already know a fair price, can’t you just give it to me for 80¥ and we don’t have to do this.” I had looked this up on taobao too.
“My friend, we can only do 300¥, it is our lowest!”
“I know how much you paid for this on taobao, and it’s nowhere near 300¥, I can do 98¥”
She pretends next to call her manager, and asks her in mandarin about a different model, my mandarin is shaky, but not enough to know that they did not discuss price even once in the exchange.
“My manager says 250¥ is all I can sell it for.”
I rolled my eyes “Ok, I can’t do that, bye”
I started to walk away and was a stall down. She pops out of the small shop. “200¥!”
I turned around, now was the time to actually discuss price. “100¥.”
“You’re beautiful, please dear, 170¥”
“120¥, it’s all I got.” We were now shouting at each other over the din of drones being flown in the narrow alleyways.
“120¥.” She finally agreed.
“What makes it extra?” We were staring a three types of red bull in the small closet sized 7/11 near the train station.
Gold, Extra, or Regular red bull.
“Well, we can’t google it, we’ll just have to take a chance.” He said picking two of them out.
It tasted vile.
Extra had less taurine than red bull, so we’ve never really found out what made it extra.
It was us, and a hapless British family that had accidentally gotten on the wrong floor at immigration, smashed between over a thousand Chinese nationals trying to get home from the holidays while police conducted the human traffic.
“Laowai?” I asked “Waiguoren? Foreigners?”
(Translator Note: Laowai is basically the chinese equivalent of gringo, it’s slang and I probably should not have used it with a police officer)
The angry police officer suddenly became very friendly and put his loudspeaker down, a smile on his face as he guided us and the British family to the elevators and bid us a good day.
He turned around and began to shout at the thousands of Chinese clamoring to get into Hong Kong.
The elevator shut just as another wave of people crowded into the hall.
I couldn’t wait to get back to sleepy, small, Hong Kong.
Shenzhen was exhaustingly large.