CSMT Day 5, Shanghai

Confucius Temple, Luggage Shopping, Business and Negotiations

A full day in Shanghai. Our Shanghai guide, Katrina, met us in the hotel lobby early in the morning and off we went.

We had to make a minor modification to our plans, however. Lily, whom I had met on my way to China, had phoned and arraigned for me to meet the members of the company she was working as agent for this afternoon. A quick discussion resolved the timing with the tour - I'd go to the meeting while they went to the top of the same building (The Jin Mao building, which is apparently the tallest in Shanghai) for some sightseeing during it. If I was there too long, they'd just finish up the day without me. Perfect.

So, sightseeing in the morning, business in the afternoon - a good day in the big city :)

Our first stop was the Confucius Temple. Now, I'm a big fan of Confucius (most of the time) and even took an entire course in Confucianism during university, so this was very interesting to me. Apparently, "temple" is a bit of a misnomer, since Confucianism isn't really a religion - more of a philosophy. It's closer to a school.

Unfortunately, it was bombed during WWII, then the remainder destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, so it's more like a recreation of the original, rather than the original itself. But it's very beautiful. Almost all of the furnishings and artifacts were donated by locals during the rebuilding, which is very heartening.

The courtyard garden is gorgeous.

One of the more interesting views is that right across the street from the temple is a modern high school. Old and new schools teaching together - I like it.

After the temple, we went shopping in the Xiangyang Road Market. I thought that Nanjing Road was pretty good, but this place was incredible! It had a great "Chinese" look to it, and tons of stores. I was able to get some nice gifts for family and friends at some good prices.

After that, we had another tea ceremony, which was very nice, but by now I was starting to get all tea-ceremonied out. On the plus side, I can now do a tea ceremony perfectly. This one featured 2 interesting teas called "Romeo" and "Juliet". They consist of a ball of tea, that, when dropped into hot water, expand and unfold into a miniature bouquet -just beautiful.

After this, I loaned my camera to David and went to my appointment with the Shanghai Tiens Jinquan Investment Consulting Ltd. (http://www.tiens.com.cn/) who are apparently far larger than I originally thought they were. After discussions, it became clear that we both had very useful skills to bring to the table, so after some discussion, we signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding).

This is not common in North America, but almost every deal I've put together in Asia has started with one. An MOU is simply a non-binding written expression of interest in working together. This is usually (hopefully) followed by negotiations and discussions that solidify the expectations of each party. Once this has been sorted out, the next step is a Letter of Intent, which is basically the non-binding, high level, bare bones of a contract.

Once the Letter of Intent is agreed to in principle by the Directors of all parties, the lawyers get to work and draft a Contract, which then usually goes through several revisions (my personal record was 23, with Samsung) before it's all finally done.

This is a fairly normal practice and procedure in China, Korea and Japan, at least in my personal experience. It's actually quite nice, since putting something, even non-binding, in writing is a good way to show that you are serious about proceeding, and not just saying you are interested to be polite or to save face.

Since this all took far longer than I expected, I missed the rest of the tour that day.

When I got back to the hotel, I found that Dave and Dale were also doing some business meetings, and Brooke was getting hungry. The two of us decided to go grab something to eat, and then went on the "Great Suitcase Hunt" (which will be a minor but continuing theme for a good portion of the rest of the blog about the tour).

Brooke, shopping machine that she is, decided she needed another suitcase to hold all the stuff she had bought. I'd feel smug and superior about this except I had deliberately arrived with an almost empty huge suitcase myself, which was now bursting at the seams and weighed enough to make the ticket agents want to bill me for another ticket. Any big city can get a little seedy at night, so I went along with her.

Nanjing Road is a very different animal at night. The normal shops close down and the street vendors and beggars move in. One of the first things I noticed was someone zipping down the road wearing some strap-on wheels on their shoes. My kids had specifically asked for these, and I'd been looking in vain up until this point, so I decided I wanted them. Big mistake.

The vendor (a kid, really) started off at 600RMB per skate. Nonsense, of course. We went back and forth for a bit, and finally, I decided that I was willing to pay around 50RMB each. After much haggling (with Brooke wisely insisting that I should hold out for less) I agreed to 175RMB for 3 pairs (58RMB each or about $7 each).

You know you have just made a bad deal when the vendor grabs your money, runs towards his friends, jumps in the air, kicks his heels and yells "Wahooo!"

No lie. He did that. Lesson learned: Never want something so much you are not willing to walk away from it, unless you are willing to pay the sellers price, rather than yours.

To rub salt in the wound, we were then hounded by more wheel vendors, each one offering the wheels at progressively lower prices. For reasons I can only describe as pure evil, one finally offered to sell 3 pairs of wheels for 15RMB (less than $1 each). I watched, ego shattered, as Brooke bought a pair "just because they were too cheap to pass up". I briefly considered beating her to death with a wheelie, but then settled for a session of self pity.

But we still didn't have the luggage. So we continued down the street until we were mobbed by a bunch of old ladies thrusting cute kids with roses at us. I made a mistake and gave one little tyke a couple RMB for a rose, and was rewarded by being hounded by the rest of them in an incredibly offensive and belligerent manner. I felt really sorry for those kids. We retreated.

On the way back, the kid who had sold me my overpriced wheelies tried to sell us some more. Brooke asked him if he had any luggage. To my astonishment, he said yes! Off his friends went to procure it, while we continued walking back. Near the end of the road, just before we were to turn towards the hotel, we saw that the group of them had disappeared down an alley. An alley which I noticed was not only dark, but adjacent to a luggage store.

A few minutes later, they came out with a few pieces of very nice luggage. By this time, I was very concerned we were buying stolen goods ("You need luggage?" *smash* "Here’s some. How much you pay?").

Further, Brooke, who I must admit is a much better bargainer than I, only wanted to pay 300RMB, not the 500RMB they wanted. They then offered to show us more luggage, though we would have to follow them down the dark alley. No way on that one.

By this time Brooke had also decided it was all too shady, and she wasn't about to support shoplifting, so we left without luggage, hoping maybe we could find some in Nanjing, which we were scheduled to go to by train tomorrow morning.


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