Monday, August 30, 2010

This is how it's done

I have wondered more than once how a place like Metro does business in China. Metro, for the uniformed, is like Sam's Club. Theoretically, you need a membership card, though I just tell them every time that I don't have a card and they write a slip for me to go in. Inside, there are carts larger than you've ever seen elsewhere in China (I used to shop at a place where a "cart" was a double decker place to put plastic baskets - have fun shopping for 10 items!). There's everything from lawn furniture to appliances to food to household goods. And in good Chinese fashion, in addition a gallon vat of mayonnaise, you can buy a 2 liter jug of soy sauce.
(side note: despite the massive size of much of what can be purchased at Metro, they do not deliver. Go figure).

The reason I wonder why they don't close shop is that I rarely see people buy any of the larger items. Case in point: today the woman in front of me was buying an 8 pack of Mentos gum, a 3 pack of glue sticks, and a small jar of Dijon mustard. The guy in front of her, a package of noodles. The woman behind me had a bag of frozen dumplings.

This is what I had:
This is easier to understand when you know that until very recently, many Chinese households didn't even have refrigerators. Their kitchens are small, without storage. They shop meal to meal, or at least day to day. True, occasionally I'll see someone with a large amount of alcohol, or an economy pack of holiday treats (currently moon cakes), but they generally have a look of wonder and excitement on their faces that says, "I can't believe I'm buying this!"

So I ask myself, "Is it just us foreigners keeping this place open? Or is the restaurants to whom it is supposedly marketed?" (you can buy lots of restaurant stuff there). If so, maybe we should go more often, cause I don't think I can live without my 2.5kg bag of oatmeal for 29.99Y or the 2kg vat of vinegar for 19.99Y.

The funny thing, they're all staring at my cart like I'm insane, and I want to say, "Hey, this is how it's done here people!"

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