Yuyuan Garden, which is… a trip. It’s a fancy pay-to-enter park, surrounded by a huge tourist market that’s built to look like an ancient Chinese secret, and surrounding that is a huge neighborhood of touristy tourist shops in less fancy surroundings. It’s right next to the old city, which is currently being razed and replaced with high rise apartments and other modern wonders.
Of course we ran into those guys who jump up into your face and yell “HELLO! WATCHY BAG? WATCHY BAG DVD?” and then quietly “you wanna lady massage?” They flip out this laminated card with all their wares on it (minus the lady massage) and keep repeating “watchybag? watchybag? watchybag?”
The thing about these guys is that you can’t tell them no, they’re on you and they’re hard to shake. Whatever conversation you were having is disrupted… and it’s just maddening. It’s no the first time, and it’s NO the 12th time, and most people just endure them, and try to ignore them and go away. I always looked them in the eye and gave them a 不要了， or if they really weren’t getting the point I’d stop walking, pause, and say 我什么都不要了。 The point was to waste their time, which was futile, because Chinese people don’t think “time is money” like we do; they see time as an unlimited resource. One time I yelled at a guy for interrupting me, I yelled at him in Chinese, “Hey, I”m talking to my friend.”
The dude laughed at me mockingly and imitated my “hey,” derisively.
So I yelled back “Nobody want to buy your things!”
What can I say, I’m a hero.
Anyway, when Shawn of the Bread came to visit, I pulled a trick I learned from Prof. Kelm: I bought the damn watchybag card.
Let me see the card, I said, I want to buy this. I’ll give you 10 kuai. A crowd of mostly other watchybaggers started gathering immediately.
The guy was terrified and didn’t want to sell it to me for 10 kuai. So I offered more, and more. I got up to 30 kuai and he still refused. I asked him, why don’t you want to sell it? This guy (pointing to another watchybag man) will sell me his for 15.
The other guy was happy to do it, so I let my original, terrified watchybag guy off the hook. The crowd loved it.
I paid him and immediately started accosting the crowd, saying “手表手表手表…” The other watchybag folks, men and women, eagerly said, yes, yes, we want to buy! So I said, “follow me!” But rather than take them anywhere, I just accosted other watchybaggers. When they saw that I wasn’t going anywhere they got bored of me.
After that, whenever I got watchybagged, I whipped out my own card and watchybagged them back. That usually ended it. Shawn of the Bread thought I was the Man; I was pretty impressed with myself as well.
You know, I know very little about the lives of the watchybag guys; I don’t know why or how they have decided that this tactic is the best way to sell things to foreigners. I cannot imagine them having any success with it, but I suppose if it didn’t work they would stop doing it.