Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Giordano RULES!

Got to Macau to visit my hubby while he's here consulting to some big ol' slot machine company.

Macau weather still cold, and I knew I'd be back in northern California for a short time, so I thought I'd hit the clothing shops. First off, before I even get so far as the post office, I see one of those white-on-white clothing outlets that are so typical of Hong Kong and now, apparently, Macau. I go in and buy two bursting bags of ski jackets and fashion jackets and shirts and pants, some with the labels intact enough to know that I'm paying pennies on dollars. The whole haul is less than one hundred US dollars. All wonderful.

Probably the coolest thing, now that I've lived in Bali for 4 or 5 years, was that the prices were fair and marked indelibly on the tags. I mean, I haggled a little at the total, and I think the cashier knocked off MOP5 (I was paying in HKD, anyway, a nicer currency), but the main thing is, the haggling didn't DECIDE the sale.

Ladies of Bali Expatria, you tell me: ain't it a bitch to go into some cute little clothing shop, and there are no prices? It's the most popular Balinese dance: Shopping Joged. The steps are familiar to us all. You have to ask the nearest shopgirl for the price of every single item. You raise your eyebrows at the crappy first price. She counters by saying, but you can have a discount. You put one thing back, you pick up another. You repeat earlier steps. You hold the big pile of clothing and approach the cashier, asking for 50% of what you think you should be paying. She counters with a price that does not take into consideration the proffered discount by the first shop girl. You laugh gaily and point out the delightful mistake, being careful to say that 75% of what you want to pay is really more reasonable. They say no. Expert dancers at this point take out a calculator, and key in a slightly lower price for you to see. You say no, look to the door, offer 90% as a last price. They say no (boy, isn't this exciting?) and so you walk to the door, casually offering 100% of your own best price. They will either say yes or no, and if they say no, you better not go walking back in there unless you enjoy losing face. The end is the loss of your hard work choosing, calculating, and negotiating.

In Hong Kong and Macau, by contrast, each clothing shopper is on equal terms with the next. Maybe the shopkeeper's friends get a good deal every once in a while, but really there is a general equality amongst all punters. You go in, you see how much you gotta pay, you pay it, you leave. Surgical shopping.

Now, as I rounded into the beautiful plaza in the heart of downtown Macau, I spotted a Giordano shop. Giordano is a total Hong Kong phenom, beating American GAP to smithereens on several levels. Sometime back in the 60's, a delegation of Italian manufacturers came to Wanchai to show real style to Hong Kong people. Well, it convinced the Hong Kongers that Italian stuff is synonymous with style, but it also gave HK manufacturers a lot of great ideas. Giordano, Balino, and myriad other Italian-sounding style houses sprang up.

Giordano survived, with a difference. In about 1993, they decided that they would buck the trend of HK service and offer friendly salespeople, unlimited use of the dressing room, and dozens of available colors to choose from. No more "sorry out of stock", no more frowning girls ignoring your questions, no more exasperated sighs when you decide to not purchase an item, no more "you can't try on. Stretch fabric." Giordano suddenly became a frightening place for the jaded Hong Konger, for the barrage of smiles and hellos upon entry to the store. Tons of dressing rooms, girls searching earnestly through back rooms looking for extra stock... it was nothing we'd seen before. West of Hawaii, anyway.

But it stuck. To this day, Giordano is as ubiquitous in Hong Kong as Starbucks in urban America. And, true to form, as I entered the Macau Giordano, I was greeted by half a dozen young clerks, all smiling like Taiwanese or Samoans or Balinese or... anything but south Chinese!

I tried on twelve outfits, the girls helped me arrange shawls, they looked in the back for other sizes... it was quite a morning. Their help and suggestions and patience with me paid off for them. I laid down another hundred greenbacks. This time for several of their fabulous designs... the knit torquoise shrugs, the stretchy smooth long sleeve t shirts, a belt, shirts for my man, and probably would have bought more if I didn't already have a tonnage problem. Such great designs, such great fabrics, such unbeatable prices!

It dawned on me later that I had asked one of the salesgirls for something in pidgin Indonesian. She didn't even pout. She probably just figured I was German, struggling with the English language. Not that there isn't a German out there whose English is far superior to most American's.

Anyway, next stop for me was the luggage store. Had to buy a suitcase for all the loot.

But Giordano

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