Yesterday I went shopping in China with my girlfriend Jen because she wanted to pick out a new camera. We thought we were being pretty smart about it. We spent about 2 hours researching online, looking at tons of camera review sites to find out which ones were the best for our price range. We got a list of 6 choices together and headed to the Beijing technology area to make the purchase.
The Beijing tech area is a marvel for people who live in western countries. It’s an entire area, full of like 10 of the biggest malls you’ve ever seen, and all of them sell nothing but technology. It can be overwhelming at first glance, but we knew we had a list, so we figured we just had to go to the floor that sold cameras, try a few from our list, pick our favorite, and make it home in an hour or two.
Things didn’t work out so smoothly.
The tech area is stressful to say the least, and more so if you’re a foreigner. Even from the second you step off of the subway there are salesmen trying desperately and furiously to find out what you want to buy, so they can make commission by taking you to their stores. As a foreigner you’re a higher target as well, because you’re obviously ‘rich’ (ya right). These salesmen are no pushovers either. They get up in your face with big loud voices telling you how their store has exactly what you need and they don’t give up without a fight. If you yell at them you don’t want what they are selling, they try to sell something else. If you tell them, you don’t want their help they tell you that you need their help. If you tell them to go away they guess frantically at what you’re trying to buy. The best way to deal with them is to simply pretend they don’t exist, in which they will still follow you for a good 30 seconds rambling in your ear about their products before giving up.
These guys wouldn’t be so terrible… except they’re everywhere.
By ignoring these desperate guys as best we could and walking as quickly as possible Jen and I finally came across a floor full of camera stores. We walked into one that had one of the brands we wanted and showed the name of it to the saleslady. She told us she had the camera and she would get it so that we could try it out. We were relieved things were going so smoothly. She came back a few seconds later with a more expensive model than the one we wanted. She began telling us how great it was. We quickly stopped her and told her we already checked out every model and we wanted the cheaper one. She said no problem and that her colleague was going to get it, but in the meantime she wanted us to play with the better model. We took a few pictures while we waited as she went on and on about the camera features. Eventually I got a little impatient and asked where the model we wanted was. She told me it would take another minute. This happened a few more times until about 10 minutes had passed. Eventually I mentioned to Jen how they are just trying to sell us this expensive camera and we should go somewhere else as they were wasting our time. A big argument exploded in Chinese over this and after discussing for a minute Jen informed me they didn’t actually have our model at all they were lying to us in hopes we would buy the better one.
The second we left the store we were surrounded by salesmen again. I showed them the list and said bring me to the store that has these cameras, these exact models. They quickly assured us they had the exact models, and reconfirmed that as we asked them 4-5 times with suspicion. Upon entering the camera store the salesmen quickly ran away, and we found that again, the store had different models then we wanted. This time the store salesmen apologized for not having the right model but promised us his partners store upstairs had it and also had 3 other models on our list. He said it was close so we decided to check it out. We followed him down the hall and out of the building. Jen and I looked at each other suspiciously as he had told us it was just upstairs. Next we went to an elevator and rode up to the top floor. Here we entered a big strange camera room with a ton of tables that had customers and sales people sitting at them. They told us to sit down, take off our coats and relax and brought us our own salesmen to discuss things with us. We showed him the last and he happily declared they had 4 of the cameras on it and they would allow us to try them out. Jen and I looked around and thought the place was quite suspicious. It was incredibly isolated compared to the other stores and very hard to reach. We wondered… why would the store be so secretive? Why were there hardly any cameras on display? Eventually the salesmen brought us 1 right camera and 2 (wrong model ones). We were a little angry as he assured us the wrong model ones were ‘totally the same’ but we tried out the one he did get right. It seemed not quite up to quality though and didn’t quite feel right… Jen and I were feeling really suspicious about the store at this point so we decided just to get out of there. (more on this in a second)
After being bombarded by a ton more salespeople on the way out. We entered 1 more store and were lied to yet again. This time the owner claimed we couldn’t test out the cheaper model we wanted as it was only for display but then happily suggested we try the expensive one sitting in the glass right next to it, he also explained the cheaper one was no good as it missed two extremely important features (which all the camera review websites noted were pretty irrelevant) and explained how the model we wanted couldn’t even do HD video (also completely untrue.) We had enough of the BS at this point so we decided to leave the tech area and went to a real store that was nearby.
The real store was a breath of fresh air. We told the store lady about our experience and she explained to us how in those secret rooms on the top floor the cameras aren’t real. They are either refurbished previously broken ones or totally fake ones built to look like real ones. Jen and I thanked god that we trusted our instincts and left when we did.
Next in the real store we tried out a bunch of cameras and narrowed down our choices to the ones we wanted. The only problem however was that this store was super expensive, more-so even than the online stores. If we wanted a good deal we had to go back in… We didn’t like the idea, but this time we knew which camera we wanted to buy, so it was just a matter of finding it and making it out alive.
We went back in and told a salesman to take us to the store with the model we showed him. He told us he was so certain the store had the correct model that he even accepted Jens offer that if he was lying to us he would buy us coffee. Unsurprisingly however, the second we entered the store he quickly ran away, and the model we wanted was nowhere to be found. Here we asked the salesman about a camera I really wanted to check out for my own curiosity, an expensive one with an amazing slow motion video setting that could take up to 1000 frames of video per second resulting in incredibly movie quality slow motion effects. We explained this to him and he told us he had one that was really close with all the same features. I of course at this point told Jen we should leave as he was obviously lying, but the man was so persistent in assuring us it was basically the same camera that he convinced us to try it. I told him all I cared about was the slow motion and without really listening he continued reassuring us it was the same. We eventually agreed to try it, and after 10 minutes of him showing us every feature except slow motion, I told him to cut the crap and show me it. He asked Jen to translate the slow motion for me 1 last time then laughed at me and told me it was impossible for cameras to do that and if I wanted slow motion effects the only way to do that was to use a computer program. I kind of lost it at this point, I just couldn’t the bullshit anymore. I swore at the salesman and stormed out of the store, then promptly yelled a big FUCK OFF to the swarming salesmen from the other stores. Jen and I began yelling at each other about problems with translations and a whole array of things, we were both furious and decided to go home.
We stepped outside into the night, realized we had wasted our entire Sunday and still didn’t have a camera. We felt completely defeated.
We boarded the subway and went home empty handed.
On the way home we apologized for yelling at each other, and we apologized for all of our outbursts near the end of the day. We talked about what a terrible experience it was, just trying to buy something without all the lies and trickery and deceit. Counting now we had been lied over about 10 times during the day by people who just wanted to get their hands on our money. We talked about how it’s terrible there is such greed and corruption when it comes to such a simple thing as trying to buy a product. We also talked about how it was our fault that we put ourselves through the terrible experience just to save 300-400 RMB ($60-80).
But then we realized something else. All of the problems we faced today, all of the lying, the cheating, the anger, the greed, the frustration, the corruption, the time wasting and even the fight Jen and I had with each other all had 1 single underlying cause:
…The monetary system in which we live in.
Every problem we went through today all boils down to the outdated system we live in, the monetary system that causes scarcity and rewards greed and corruption. Can we really blame the salesmen for doing what they did? The truth is, they are only doing their best to survive and thrive in the system they are a part of. They need money for their survival, and with China being such a competitive place, it’s no question that their tactics that involve lies and tricks are often necessary to make more sales. I’m sure some of them have bills to pay. I’m sure some of them have to work themselves out of big debts. I’m sure some are struggling to simply put food on the table for their families. They have merely adapted to the system they live in. The same system which makes wars profitable, the same one that rewards companies for cutting costs through polluting the environment, the same one that has insurance companies denying claims of needy patients because it’s better for business, the system that leaves 100,000 people dying every day from starvation. This is the system in which we live, this is the system in which we support, and these are the consequences of the system.
Human beings are products of their environments. Anyone who has studied past cultures thoroughly enough understands that it’s not human nature that causes greed and corruption, but rather the social system in which people live. Scientific studies have shown that there is no such thing as a hardwired negative human nature, only education, and conditioning determines how people behave. These salesmen are not just bad people, perhaps on the contrary they are very competent people who have learnt how to get the most out of the system that rewards their actions. As the saying goes “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
After watching Zeitgeist Addendum and keeping up with all the research and materials that have followed it for the past 2 years, I’ve gotten a solid understanding of how flawed and faulty the current monetary system is, and a better understanding of how we can thrive like never before when it is replaced. Through my daily life I can’t help but see the world from this perspective because the more you look, the more obvious it becomes. I don’t want to get into any details during this blog post, as it fails to even scratch the surface, but feel free to watch the movie and start gaining and understanding about it yourself.
Until next time, keep an eye out in your own life at the true cause of your negative feelings and see how many of them can boil down to the monetary system or the values it creates in people.