I live in the shopper’s paradise – and for me it’s a living nightmare.
Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE to shop. Well, I actually love to spend and to accumulate new shiny things. It’s the shopping part that can cause me much pain in the process, especially living in Thailand.
You see, there are two types of shopper. There is the extroverted shopper, who greets the shop assistant as they walk in, who asks for extra sizes, colours or designs, who enjoys the entire process. Then there’s the introverted shopper who likes to browse uninterrupted, avoiding eye contact with the seller (because we all know that once eye contact happens, the pressure to buy multiplies). I don’t hate shopping; I just love a quiet, uninterrupted browse at my own pace.
Yes, Thailand is a shopper’s dream, especially Hatyai which is referred to as the shopping mecca of southern Thailand, and rightly so – with markets, shopping malls and super centres there is a shop for everyone.
Unfortunately for those of us who come under the introverted shopper category, you’re out of luck. Be it a stall at the local market or a top brand store in a shopping centre, those shop assistants will be on your back and breathing down your neck and showing you the various spectrum of colours that each item comes in before you have even glanced at a pair of socks. Perhaps they see a foreigner and make the mistake of assuming that I have a lot of money. I think it’s just the style of selling here – loud and in your face whether you like it or not. I guess they are all on commission. And there’s the return of the pressure to guilt-buy.
Take yesterday for example. I need new school shoes, a bag and a new pair of sunglasses. Pretty simple stuff. So I head to Lee Gardens shopping centre and make my way downstairs where the cheapest stuff is (usually in these kind of places the price goes up the higher the floor number).
First shop – shoe shop. It’s a large store but they still have far too much stock. Dozens of hundreds of shoes are squeezed onto shelves arranged into makeshift aisles that my foreign ass barely fits down. I adopt a sideways shuffle approach. As long as I can crab walk my way down these alleyways uninterrupted I will be fine. But of course within approximately 40 seconds the shop assistant has looked up and is sideways shuffling after me. There is no turning space. I am trapped.
What follows is a pointless conversation where despite my best efforts to say that I am just looking (and my Thai is most definitely up to scratch in the shopping department) she doesn’t take the hint and leave me alone and instead randomly selects shoes of varying designs, colours and material in the hopes that by twirling them around three inches from my nose she may enlighten me to how lovely they are. A bejewelled sandal. Green jelly shoes. Stiletto heels. Only in Thailand can these three shoe specimens be found side by side on the shelf.
After saying no, no thank you, no I don’t like those… I find myself sideways crab shuffling backwards and out of the shop. I didn’t get to look at 95% of the shop. As I left I saw that not only do they also sell sunglasses, but bags too. Had I been left alone I probably would have bought my entire shopping list in one go. But alas, I backwards shuffled right out of there and into the bright lights of the shopping centre foyer, empty handed and annoyed.
Why can’t I be more shopping-assertive? Why, despite my best efforts to give off an aura that says leave me alone, do I seem to attract the unwanted attention of the shop assistant every time?
This is why I love Tesco (I would say other supermarkets are available but they aren’t in Thailand – oh how I miss Asda). You can browse to your heart’s content and no-one is going to pounce on you. Or even if I had an actual street address for my house, I could internet shop. Oh, the possibilities!
For now I will just make do with my tatty shoes, my broken bag and my scratched up sunglasses. Next time I will be more prepared – perhaps if I wear a big pair of headphones blaring out crazy-loud music, and refuse to speak anything but very fast English, then they will leave me to browse at peace.