21 December 2009

People with power

I was in China for a period of time starting on the 17th of November. The area I was, and maybe all of China, this website is blocked. I couldn't blog while I was there. I'd written some thoughts into Word and saved it... but then couldn't find it when back in the states. I'd accidentally saved it in the wrong folder. Here it is...

Currently I’m in Beijing… when you look past the initial scene of dirt and grime you begin to notice something wonderful. It really is quite a beautiful place. The buildings are constructed in a very interesting and unique way. Structures that have stood for thousands of years are still standing… and maintained (for instance the Forbidden City... 1700 years old and constructed of wood). Granted I’d love to see them cared for better… but everyone (culture) has to go through its learning curve of preservation tactics and importance.

I’m not going to get lost in the realm of discussing the city and politics and other such things. What I’m wanting to write about are the people. The people here are gorgeous. I’m not speaking about their exterior (although that’s beautiful as well). I’m speaking of their ability to put up with so much and still maintain a smile on their faces.

Those that deal with the public here are amazing. I watch them and observe how much they put up with; especially from the foreigners… like me. I can’t believe that with all they put up with they still continue to bend over backwards to help out and complete their task.

I was watching one woman that was buying a number of different items (we’ll call her Louise), and the retailer (we’ll call Nancy).
Again, Louise was purchasing a number of different items from Nancy. Louise was collecting items in groups and paying for each group separately. I observed her creating something along the lines of eight item groups. I also observed her doing something that you used to see a lot more of but is very rare anymore. That is paying for items in US dollars. (The dollar has been dropping against the Yuen which means that the dollar is less stable and less desired). Each time Nancy would tell Louise the dollar equivalent due then Louise would round the number down and hand it to Nancy. Just sitting there watching I figured that Louise cheated Nancy out of roughly US $6. Louise would say that she didn't have enough for the payment of each group, but after she was done with payment she would create another group and more money would appear. Then if Nancy would try to stick to her guns and sell at the RMB equivalent then Louise would complain.

(Six dollars may not sound like a lot, but Nancy was already selling at rock bottom pricing… so her profit margin was dropped drastically. To give you an idea the worth of $6. One of the hotels that I stayed in the front desk clerks earned roughly $6 in an 8 hour shift. The hotel clerks at that hotel tend to work 24 hour shifts with a 16 hour period of time off afterward. This way they could increase their earnings.)

(Now back to Louise...)
What’s sad is that the foreigners (especially frequent business travelers) know that they have the upper hand. The sellers and service people know that if they don’t bend over backward then word of mouth can kill them. There are times they have to allow themselves to give things away just to keep the customer happy. They don’t want that person going back and telling the rest of their colleagues about their bad experience with this person.

Foreigners, especially westerners, tend to walk around with this aura of arrogance about them. They act as though they are the greatest thing that has entered into China and that everyone and everything should get on its knees and serve them.

They want their private shoppers / sellers. They want to be served hand and foot. They can’t understand why you, as the service person, would not speak their language… and the list of demands goes on and on.

It’s embarrassing and frustrating.

It would be nice if people could pull back and see the way they're acting. Would they do this same thing in their home town, around people they know?


  1. That's disgusting to think that my fellow Americans are making such jackasses out of themselves at the cost of another human being and their livelihood. How would they feel if we lowered their value??!! OMG! Great Post!! Thank you for putting it out there, hopefully most travellers are only ignorant, and will now know better! I know I certainly will.

    I busted my butt learning French for the upcoming Senior trip to Paris. I didn't get to go, but I know that I would have tried as hard as possible to always speak THEIR language, just as I expect someone in North Dakota to speak mine.

  2. Its a real shame that some people throw their power around that way. Sadly, I think those same people would be quite put-out if anyone attempted to take advantage of them. I wonder if they realize that they are representing all Americans while in another country? Great post.

    ~ Yaya
    Yaya's Home

  3. Thank you to the both of you... there was a part of me that was thinking I was sounding anti-American by this post. I didn't want it to come across that way. What I wanted to portray was exactly how you'd both received it. I wanted to show that people need to treat one another (no matter where they are) with dignity.