Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hong Kong Chronicles: Lessons in Bargain Hunting

I thought I knew people who were the consummate bargain hunters. I've shopped with them. I am not one of them. My friends with mad skilz in shopping...if it comes to a showdown between me and them, they win hands down. I don't even hold a candle to their skilz. But compared to Hong Kongers, they are merely trainees. I do believe Bargain Hunting could be nominated as an Olympic Sport. And the people who live in Hong Kong would dominate.

My adventures in bargain hunting began by accident. I'm still discovering where to find odd bits and bites of crafty things as well as quality home accent items. Big box stores such as Britain's B&Q and Australia's Spotlight were tried. And failed. Bix box stores are NOT a hit in Hong Kong. However, the box store in the throes of failure is a gold mine for the Hong Kong bargain hunter. It means mega-discounts on quality merchandise.

Which leads me to a sad little aside about the demise of Spotlight. It was a home decor store with high-thread count sheet sets that included a fitted sheet that actually fit your bed. Not some scratchy monstrosity from Ikea that parades as a pseudo-fitted-but-is-really-just-a-flat-sheet-with-an-attempt-at-pockets. This thing will have you wrapped up as a mummy by the morning. They have real air tight containers that protect your food from mold and critters...unlike the cheap plastic rice bins that appeared to be air tight. Not. They also have a very, very modest craft section. Nothing like a Hobby Lobby or Michael's. But, I've been making do with being able to find some things I need/want.

My big idea yesterday was to pick up a few bars of Sculpey polymer clay to get to know the properties of working with the freedom of clay, how to blend colors, etc. I was planning on 10, maybe 15 bars of colors.

Oh. Dear.

I tracked my way to the store and found the shelves nearly empty. I moved toward where the Sculpey had been kept past a line that was 500 feet long that was beginning to wrap around back on to itself. I thought...no way. If I don't find the Sculpey, I'm out of here. But, I did find the Sculpey. It was 75% off. My 15 bars morphed into 53. Oops. I got in line. In about 10 minutes I found how heavy 53 bars of clay are. About 20 minutes in I spied a nice craft bag to start toting the clay. We inched past the yarn section. I had the opportunity to read the contents and picked up some nice skeins of bamboo/soya, recycled cotton/acrylic, cotton, and bamboo/cotton. Some dreamy new yarns I've been dying to try. I'm unfortunately still in scarfland, but my latest scarf is moving it up a notch...it's a waffleknit that will be a gift for a friend who adores purple. I managed to restrain myself from more yarn and more pillows.

While in line, I notice a guy in front me with nothing to buy. I figure it out. His mom stuck him in line to hold a spot while she shopped. During the hour and a half in line before I check out, I was bumped thousands of times. It's common when your personal space zone is much smaller and you share the crowded space with so many people. People are generally exceedingly patient with the constant bumping. It takes a lot to annoy a local with your pushing. However, I managed to mildly annoy the guy in front of me (the one with nothing to buy) as I loaded up my new bag. (What could I do? I was hemmed into a tight space in the line and no one was moving...actually, I was constantly being bumped from behind and the side as people walked past. This is where retractable elbows would be a great invention.) Also, I learned you couldn't even wander off the line in any way (I got distracted with some pretty yarn) as your space would immediately be slurped up by the person hovering behind you. I used my ignorance to slide back into the space I never really vacated.

I learned some tricks from the masters of the bargain hunt.
  1. Hunt in pairs. A family pack is even more preferrable. One to get in line immediately and the others are left to shop while the queue inches forward. (Like the guy in front of me who was a plant by his mom.) I was able to observe the dynamics of this tactic. Mom and Dad would occasionally show up and claim the space while the other family members continued their shopping. Eventually it was just the dad in line and even he was summoned by a phone call and left the line a mere two people away from the cashier!
  2. Which leads to learning another trick: split the family members into as many lines as possible to see who gets to the front first. The winner calls the other family members to their winning line.
  3. Partners in crime can keep you stocked with food and drink, if you haven't already packed your own food and drink. They can hold your place in line should you need to dash to the restroom. They can also hold your place while you shop for even MORE bargains. And a folding, portable stool is also nice. Especially if you wait for an hour and a half.
I waited in line for one hour and a half. .... At least. I refused to look at my watch after a certain point to just ignore the amount of time it took. I prefer to remain generally ignorant or think it was an hour and a half. If it was more, I wouldn't know. I don't want to know.
But I survived my first Bargain Hunt in Hong Kong. I have some more digesting to do to determine if I've become wiser or just more averse to shopping.


  1. Oh, that's hilarious! Thanks for the new shopping "tactics" - I'll have to give them a try!

  2. lol! That was brilliant : )
    I like bullet point 2, my mom has done that to me...made me think of the comedian's bit, it is the first 2 minutes and 44 seconds that I was thinking of. (So as to not be confusing if you watch it, hit play and watch until 2:44 ;-))