January 09, 2010

Day #3: attacked by custom tailors

Today Zion and I had three main goals: ride a double decker bus, locate a special bookstore, and find an place where we could pick out some frames for his glasses.

First things first, we needed the glasses. I was a focused man as this is our whole reason for being here. Thankfully, we bumped into Steve. He's a man in his late 40's, a good four inches taller than me, from Ohio, and prematurely going gray. We first met Steve and his partner Peter in the Burger King the night we arrived. I needed an extension cord and an adapter for our noise maker and they were more than willing to help. Nice guys.

Steve was excited about our reunion and happily pointed us in the right direction, though we would have a long walk to the Lens Crafters store. As we passed several city blocks I saw a familiar scene - on almost every corner there are multiple custom tailors who are more than willing to grab you and wrestle you to their store. In just a few days, I've seen many a tourist duped by these kind yet persistent men. I've kept a firm, yet kind policy toward them. Until today...

I was starting to wonder if Steve's Lens Crafters would ever appear so I began asking a few people where it was, how far, and so on. As I finished one of these talks with a fellow passerby, I turned to proceed and there, toe to toe with me, blocking my way, was a large Indian custom tailor. He was more than willing to provide information concerning the lens shop and I don't know if I was weary, emotionally weak, but in a moment of indecision I followed him to his store where I was introduced to his "brother" - an even larger, more imposing, Indian custom tailor.

As I looked around his small shop, I thought to myself, "I have always wanted a nice coat to wear over a suit, why not find out how much it costs?" He quoted me cheap prices, showed me pictures, material, gave an impressive presentation, and suddenly I was hooked. This is how it happens - I've pitied men like me who go out looking for lenses and out of no where forking over the cash to the custom tailor.

I thought it was a pretty good deal, 275 HKD for a coat of some kind. That was of course until he pulled the ol' currency swap on me. I should have seen it coming. I first encountered this technique in Jerusalem - where the shop owners would move from one currency to another and back and forth during negotiations to further confuse you. What was supposed to be 275 HKD, suddenly became 275 USD - only 7 times more expensive and the large, rather imposing, Indian custom tailor already had my 500 HKD deposit in his pocket. Things were not looking good.

If I had anyone to blame, it was myself. Me, if anyone, should have seen this coming. I laughed out loud intentionally, which I've found either to be the appropriate response to such situations, or a response so confusing to the people you're dealing with that they are caught off guard. He reluctantly handed the 500 back over and Zion and I moved quickly - not just to exit the store, but also the whole neighborhood that contained several competing custom tailors who would now want a piece of me as well.

Zion jumped in the stroller, no time for a coat, hat, or sunglasses to protect his incredibly large cross-eyed pupils - we needed an escape route quick. We took the alley out to the main street, where not one, not two, but three consecutive custom tailors made their appeal about how their shirts were cheaper, better quality, and would make me more happy.

Down the street, we discovered a closed Lens Crafters...

Thankfully, later this morning we found a great place that may even make the lenses up before we catch our flight. I also got a hold of the book I've been looking for and we rode a double decker bus. Zion only ate a bag of baked Lay's potato chips for dinner, but I figured he was still stressed from our earlier dealings and let it slide.

2 more days.