Tuesday, October 17, 2006

100th CECF

I am attending the 100th China Export and Commodities Fair in Guangzhou. Well, I today I am not... today I am stuck in my hotel room, unable to stray more than 10 meters from a toilet. Since my laptop computer is within that prescribed distance from the loo, I thought I'd take the opportunity to catch up on some blogging.

For the past 5 weeks or so I've spent approximately 3 days at home (strange calling Yantai home). Most of my time has been spent attending trade shows. I've been to the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover (Germany), the Paris Auto Show, and a show for Leisure Vehicles (motorhomes and trailer homes) somewhere in the outskirts of Paris.

With all this time spent at tradeshows, I've made many observations, particularly relating to the differences between Western and Chinese shows. I thought I'd try and sum them up here.

  • The shear number of people first of all. The Chinese have a nack it seems for stretching fire code max capacities to a new record (if they have them at all). This point is best illustrated when visiting the McDonald's on-site. Average in size, there are (and this is not an exaggeration) approximately 200 workers behind the counter taking your order, preparing your sandwich, and collecting your money. It is so congested that most of the staff cannot move and merely turn into a human conveyorbelt, passing your Big Mac from one person to another until it reaches you. Even though this is the busiest McDonald's I have ever seen in my life (they have workers who take your order with a wireless palm pilot while you are in-line), there are frequently more people working behind the counter than there are customers.
  • Considering the first point, the second one is really quite scary. The Chinese have an insatiable desire it seems to control where people can and cannot go. At the CECF, a portion of the show is outside, and most is indoors. The Chinese police who seem to run the event, have locked most exit doors with chains! Despite being incredibly dangerous with that kind of crowd in a building, it is also incredibly inconvenient. You are often standing 20 meters away from the company's booth you want to visit, but you are forced to walk a good 1/4 mile before you can find an exit that is not chained up!
  • In Western trade shows, companies often spend a lot of money on models to stand there at their booths and look gorgeous. Since a vast majority of tradeshow-goers are men, this strategy typically works wonders. While a few of the bigger Chinese companies do employ this strategy also, the prefered method for getting people to your booth involves physically assaulting anyone who even dares look in the general direction of their booth with their catalogue. It is thrust into you hands, and before you know it you are the proud new owner of an electrical transformers catalogue. Woohoo.
  • One great thing about Chinese companies is that the name of the company almost always starts with the city they are from. Yantai Special Vehicles Factory, Lijiang Citric Acid Corp., Zhejiang Rubber Products Limited. If you are only interested in doing business with people from a particular area, you merely have to glance at the company name as you walk.
I know I haven't been writing so much lately, but I haven't had that much time to do so. Tradeshows take a lot out of you. My feet hate me for bringing steel toed shoes, my throat isn't speaking (literally) to me because I spend all day extolling our products to customers, and my insides are waging war with themselves because I seem to have eaten some funky Cantonese food. Oh well, thats tradeshow life.