Wednesday, May 30, 2007

4 Things I Hate About Shopping

Shopaholics in the area have been salivating for weeks in anticipation of Singapore’s big June event: the annual Great Singapore Sale. According to the local paper, people set aside about $300 US per family member ($1200 US for a family of four!) just to shop the sale. Although I’m not much of a shopper, myself, I thought surely I’d catch some of the shopaholic spirit here. But it’s just not working for me. Why? Well, since you asked...

1. Expensive stuff. Coming from the US, I fell prey to the idea that “things are cheaper in Asia.” No doubt they are, in less developed areas like Indonesia and Vietnam. But here, while there’s a vast selection of merchandise, expect to pay for it accordingly. There are still deals to be had on textiles along Arab Street and knicknacks in Chinatown, if you can haggle like a local. But the majority of items - even electronics - are costly. It’s about status. It’s about quality. So, basically, it’s about a lot of dollars. Which does tend to make the Sale less exciting for me: I’m just not motivated to snap up those $400 chef’s knives, even if they are a fabulous Henckels set marked down from $550.

2. Lucky draws (raffles). As in most of Asian culture, “luck” is an integral part of everyday life here, and people tend to be very open about their pursuit of material gain. So I guess it’s natural that the idea of winning something for free is a national obsession. During the Sale, lucky draws are an even bigger attraction than actual discounts on merchandise. People will stand in line for hours at the mall for one of these “Spend $200 and have a chance to win this (fill in the blank).” As for me, once was enough: I’d actually gotten all the way through filling out my first lucky draw entry form when I realized the prize was me, in front of an audience, jumping around in one of those booths with flying dollar bills and grabbing as much as I could. Nope, not for me, never mind.

3. Huge crowds on evenings and weekends. Singapore to the tai tai (“wife” in Mandarin, but here more a society wife, or at least one not working full time) is a soothing and peaceful place. Parking is plentiful, the malls are never crowded, and there’s always a seat on the bus. But that’s because at least half the population is at the office. On evenings and weekends, Singapore morphs into Disney World in the middle of July: everywhere you look, long queues and teeming masses of sweaty parents trying to calm their cranky children. And, country mice that we are, we still forget to plan around the crowds. Case in point: last weekend we rashly decided to spend the evening browsing at the swanky malls of Orchard Road. Too late, it dawned on us that we’d hit a perfect storm: the first weekend of the school holidays and the first weekend of the Great Singapore Sale.

4. No online shopping. Some advice, should you wish to escape the crowds and browse from the comfort of your laptop: You can’t. It’s hopeless. Since online credit card purchases are almost unheard of, most businesses don’t bother selling online. And because of this, many don’t even have helpful websites that reflect the kinds of products they sell. There are maybe 6 or 7 million shops in Singapore, so I keep hoping to go online, look at websites with lots of pictures, and narrow the list to shops I actually want to visit. But as it turns out, the only real way is to go to all of them in person. How people have this much patience, I have no idea. But at least now I’ve figured out why they’re all so thin! Imagine the miles they must log. And, after all, if you don’t go in person, you miss out on the lucky draw! Which is motivation enough in itself.


Cory said...

I never did understand the Great Singapore Sale, but then again I'm not a big shopper. AND I shopped more in Singapore in two years than that rest of my 39 years.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Singapore :)

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