Thursday, September 03, 2009

No such thing as a free electric bicycle ride

One of my favorite places to shop here is called Golden Five Star. Imagine a giant one story building filled with rows and rows of little stalls. And in those stalls you can buy everything you might possibly need and more, especially if you're not particular. Seriously, everything from mattresses to light bulbs, shoes to purses, underwear to carpets. I even found really cute Christmas and Thanksgiving decorations at one place, but I didn't have time to buy. It's a little bit like Mustafa - if you can't find it at Golden Five Star, well, you probably just didn't look hard enough (except for food - there is no food at Golden Five Star).

So I was there today, where I got a painting from Vietnam framed (finally! we've had it two years!), bought some of those really soft and absorbent wash cloths, looked for a sweater for Megan (the one she just HAS to have because her friend does), picked up curtains I had made, and bought two floor mats. It's a lot to carry back when you don't have a car, but I was doing my best to lug it toward the biggest main road. (and here comes the point of my story . . . )

As I lugged, a crusty guy on an electric bike with a flat bed attached and a cigarette dangling from his mouth offered me a ride. He said I couldn't fit my painting in a taxi, but look! It would lay quite nicely on his bike. I declined. He insisted. He said he would take me to a nearby place, for free! I told him where I wanted to go and he encouraged me to hop on. I asked him several times if he was joking. He said he wasn't. I said how much? He said, "No, free!" Yeah right. This is China buddy. Of course you want money. But he was quite adamant about it being free, so I thought, "What's the harm? I'll give him a fiver for his trouble."

After a rocky start, during which I told him maybe smoking while upwind from me was undesirable, we were off. He took me about a kilometer. As I dismounted, he mumbled something about money, as in "give me some." What followed was this conversation:

"Are you asking me for money?"

"Of course! It's not free to have a ride."

"But you said it would be free."

"What? No, you should give me money. Just give me five kuai."

"You're cheating me!" Here he started looking sheepish, so I continued,
"Back there, you said it would be free. I was willing to give you money if you had asked, but you didn't. This is cheating. If you want money, you should ask in the beginning. Don't say it's going to be free and then ask for money."

I wasn't all that upset because I knew that it would probably happen, but I felt the need to give him a good talking to so that he doesn't try to pull that stunt on more foreigners in the future. I knew it was too good to be true. There's no such thing as a free lunch. Or a free electric bicycle ride.

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