Friday, January 26, 2007

It makes me so angry...

Yesterday I went on a day-long business trip to Shanghai. I had to fly in for a morning meeting at the Hilton Hotel and fly back to Yantai in the evening. I took the plane down to Shanghai looking very dapper (yes, I used the word dapper... that must be my English Grandmother's influence). I was wearing a suit, tie, and my nicest black leather shoes. I arrived at the hotel a few hours early so I walked around the neighborhood to find a place to eat.

As I came back to the hotel, I passed a man on the street offering to shine shoes. He clearly was a shoe-fix-it guy (I suppose also known as a cobbler), and he called me over to shine my shoes. Sure enough they needed it, and when he told me 5 kuai for a shine, I said ok.

I sat down and took of my shoes. He made quick work of polishing them and while he worked we had a simple conversation about where I lived, etc. Before I had a chance to object, the man pulled out a machete and sliced off the heel of my shoe!! I yelled at him, "No!", but he showed me with my other shoe that the heels were worn and I needed new ones. Sure enough, he was correct, but I didn't appreciate not being consulted on the matter first. He knew I had to go along with it because now I had one shoe sans heel.

I watched as he expertly applied the glue, attached a new heel, trimmed the sides, and nailed it in. He did a fantastic job and when he was done, my shoes looked quite nice. When it was time to leave I asked how much.

He immediately started telling me a long story about how these were Italian heels and on Nanjing Road they cost 400 RMB ($50) for just the heel. I knew I was in for a ripoff, so when he told me he would give me a bargain at 250 RMB ($30), I yelled at him. I told him that he didn't ask if he could do it before, that he was cheating me, and that we both knew those heels were not "Italian".

Problem was, he was still holding one of my shoes. I offered to pay him 40 RMB, what I believed the service was worth (a co-worker later told me that 40-50 was a fair price), and he threatened to rip of the work he had just done on my shoe! I'd be in real trouble then because I'd have only one shoe with a heel. He finally went down to 120 RMB, but by this time a large crowd had gathered around to watch the laowai yell at the Chinese guy.

Since I didn't have anything smaller, I threw a 100 RMB note in the opposite direction, and as he scrambled for it, I yanked my shoe out of his hands. Much to my satifaction, the whole incident had attracted a police officer who asked to see the man's permit for working on the street. The man didn't have one, so he was charged a 100 RMB fine! It made me quite happy that he didn't get to keep any of my money, but I was still so angry. Being a foreigner in China is often an invitation to be ripped off. The Chinese even have a saying for it, "Cut the fat off the foreigner."

Pisses me off to no end.