The Back Backroom

Shanghai, China

Before moving onto our next great destination I feel I have not yet justified the entire Shanghai shopping experience without mentioning the all mighty “backroom”. For those of you who have heard the myths—they are true.  Rest assured this modern day fairy tale does exist (for the time being).  The “backroom” is primarily used for luxury name brand purses and watches.  When one is in search of such items the recommended routine is as such:  Do your research first!! Come equipped with pictures and full details of what you are looking for.  You must study and know the item you are in search of, all the way down to the smallest details so that when that magic moment happens and you have been selected as a “trusted shopper” and asked to follow the market worker to their “lair of luxury”—you will be prepared!!  Like Alice dropping into the rabbit hole– is just the beginning of your adventure in “Wonderland”.

 

The “backroom” is what you would possibly imagine out of the Da Vinci Code-if it were set on Rodeo Drive.  You walk into what appears to be a normal market quadrant—stocked full of every vinyl, cheap version of your favorite department store bags with altered labels.   Know that this is just a guise for what is hidden deep within the walls.  When you get the approval and the time comes, a bag is moved and the veil lifted to expose a large hidden handle not much different from a bank vault.  It is turned and a massive section of the “vinyl purse” wall moves slowly and steadily exposing just enough room for you and your lovely husband-who has been dragged on this mission.  You then enter “the backroom” (dramatic voice) which is a catacomb of  high-end luxury leather handbags, wallets, briefcases, suitcases and watches. You know you have found a good one when it reeks of the smell of leather…

Jason and I have been visiting Shanghai and frequenting these “back rooms” for almost 10 years now.  In my time, I have witnessed a lot of changes.  The quality is slipping significantly and the “back room” has become such a common place for foreigners that they have now learned to simply put their “B” class items in this secret “back room”  in an attempt to sell the unknowing- substandard items.  I have caught many sellers doing this… In fact the last time I went, I called them on it.  I couldn’t believe what happened then… they moved a purse-while we were in the “back room” to expose a handle that took us even further into another “back room” reeking of leather… I couldn’t believe it.. Who knew a “back back room”!!  You know when you are playing one of those video games and you find the secret to unlocking the next level–Let’s just say,  I was pretty excited to say the least…

Note: I have to include one of our favorite negotiation terms. “Joke-ey” sounds like the work joke with an ee sound a the end…  This can be used by you in regards to their pricing or is often used by them to express that their prices are good.  i.e., when  you offer to pay for something and they feel the price may be too low– they will say with extreme dissatisfaction and a low intonation…. “no joke-ey”.  Or if you are walking by they may say to you “hey lady, buy now.. no joke-ey price.”  This means that they are going to give you a good price–unlike all the elevated (“joke-ey”) prices everyone else may be offering.

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