Given Etsy's massive success, clearly we are all heavily into handicrafts and, if we haven't already, are about to convert our second bedrooms into workshops from which to build our hand made empires. Needless to say, my interest in this area has been cool, at best, until last week, when I took myself over to Sham Shui Po.
Sham Shui Po has been recommended to me on numerous occasions as THE place-to-buy-anything-to-tie-pin-and-decorate-with. So, as I needed wedding supplies, off I went. As I sat on the metro as it worked its way into Kowloon I imagined I would find myself in one of those markets where each stall sells exactly the same thing, only at different prices. Wrong. This place is essentially like any neighborhood, you know....roads and shops and things, with not much sign of a market as such. It was of course at this point (the point where I see there's no market) that I realise I don't actually know where I am going. So I just wander around past hundreds of cheapo crapo clothes shops selling things like this...
Never quite seen it put that way...
Tastefully selected and meticulously colour coded
And just as I was about to give up, the shops suddenly changed into bead, button, zip and ribbon shops. Hundreds of them. And each and every one of them completely different from the previous one. So, you would think well-how-many-different-types-of-ribbon-can-there-be well, think that anything you can put on a ribbon wheel, is technically ribbon.
String-like ribbon (accessories above also for sale)
Boas on wheels
Shiny-tacky-Hello Kitty-Lolita-Printable ribbon
Lace (Take that Villa do Conde)
And then there were flower accessories, buttons, beads in the same sort of quantity and variety as above.
Being foreign sometimes has its serious disadvantages. The biggest one of them all is being perpetually ripped off. All the time. It becomes exhausting paying NYC prices in HK! The thing is, I imagine some people don't even know they're getting ripped off, while I have the blessing (or curse) of local colleagues who tell me before I embark on any purchase - but mostly after - exactly what the price ceiling is. Invariably, I am charged triple the price ceiling -if I'm lucky - and no amount of coaxing will bring it down.
And yes, I know I've written about this before, when I was looking for that bloody cupboard, but I've somehow managed to steer clear of any major bargaining situations over the past year. Probably because I've been limiting my purchases to Park 'n Shop, clothes shops with printed price tags and Starbucks. But I always knew that I was only one off-piste purchase away from being seriously and unfairly overcharged. (I consider Starbucks to be fair overcharging as they don't discriminate).
Just the other day, I called up the A/C cleaning crew to come and wipe down two average size, common all garden A/C machines. Before calling them, I did my usual survey with the colleagues to see how much it should cost. In Barcelona, if we'd had air conditioners, it would have cost, say, about 30 Euros. My colleagues guessed around 400HKD. Well, I was quoted ..wait for it ...2000HKD! And when I told them I would pay 400, the guy on the phone sheepishly said his boss wouldn't go lower than the original price, and that was final. So there I am, a blonde stuck between a rock and a hard place, and no A/C... so I coughed.
Yesterday I had the exact same problem with ribbon. I went to buy ribbon, as any good self-respecting -soon-to-be-bride does, and was warned in advance by my squad not to pay more than some tiny amount. Of course, I was quoted ten times that price, and even after I plonked the ribbon back in the pile, pretended to walk away and shook my head saying "too expensive! to expensive!", the stall keeper (yes, we're talking about a market stall here) just shrugged and walked off to chat to her buddy at the hanging-knicker stall next door.
Now, as I sit under the one A/C that works - yes the other one never quite got fixed - probably clogged with dollar bills - I'm feeling quite sorry for myself, and thinking some sort of "Local Personal Shopper" agency is just what I need right now. Some sort of ribbon bargaining specialist or something.