Friday, January 26, 2007

City Shop

After hearing rave reviews from every American I know, I finally ventured to City Shop. According to their website, they are the leading retailer of imported food in Shanghai. According to my friends, some of whom shop there on a regular basis, it is a great place to shop. From the atmosphere to the items on the shelves, they all had wonderful things to say about City Shop.
I wanted some vanilla essence for my rice pudding (although it was great without it) and perhaps some canned beans or other veggies. As there is more than one City Shop in Shanghai, I checked their website for the one that would be most convenient. I found two that were only a minor detour from my route to work, and so I wrote down the addresses. I ended up going to both, one before work and the other after.
Now, I am not sure if the different stores are vastly different, I know that one of them has two floors, whereas the two I went to today were relatively small, but City Shop was a huge letdown for me. First, both of the stores were difficult to locate. One is in the basement of a mall in a nook behind the escalotor, and the other is in a huge hotel complex that has some stores, all the way in the back. I am pretty good with directions, and although I found the actual edifice without much of a problem, finding the store was frustrating. After arriving in each of the stores with a sigh of relief and sore feet, I was hit by the prices. Perhaps for foreigners making their normal US salary, the prices are not a problem. But for someone with my budget, the prices were outrageous. I'm going to give you a sample, so you can see for yourself.

Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate -
Dark Chocolate Sensation 19.90 RMB
No Sugar Added 54.00 RMB
Milk Chocolate 32.80 RMB
French Vanilla 39.80 RMB
Gold Medal Flour (5 lbs bag) 35.00 RMB
Heinz Baked Beans (English) 13.20 RMB
Del Monte Canned Vegetables 8.80 - 14.40 RMB
Green Giant Canned Vegetables 12.00 -15.60 RMB
Post Selects Great Grains Cereal 51.50 RMB

How much is that in USD? Well, the exchange rate is about 7.8 to 1, so that box of cereal is about $6.60 USD, the cheapest hot chocolate $2.50 and the most expensive one a whopping $6.90. A cheap can of veggies, just over $1 and the expensive ones about $2. Maybe not a lot to you, but at home I shop in Walmart, Target and a supermarket called Farmboy - with a name like that, you know they are not charging a lot for groceries. I only by canned veggies on sale (no more than .50 a can). And hot chocolate, it is about $1.50 regular price at Walmart. I understand that the stuff in this store is "imported" and therefore more expensive than local stuff, but honestly, for most of the items it would be cheaper for me to send money to the US and have someone mail it to me. $6.60 for Great Grains! I won't even buy it at home when it's more than $3.00. Even the more local items, like a juice which I buy all the time for 3 RMB was 4.50 RMB. By this time, I was so disappointed and exasperated, I just turned and walked out. I only went to the second store because I was so disappointed with the first, and by the time I left the second store, I was disgusted.
As I left the second store empty handed (they didn't even have vanilla essence or the beans), I thought that perhaps shopping there is about something else. I think that most people are happy to see things that remind them of home, no matter what the price. Some people can afford it yes, but even those that can't are elated at the site of Velveeta Mac and Cheese (about 50 RMB) or Spaghetti O's (didn't look). Me, I guess I just don't miss home that much. Or I'm too frugal. Or the company is not paying me in USD, in addition to paying for my housing, transportation and airfare. Perhaps I'm adaptable. The rice pudding was good without the vanilla, I can buy beans down the street and soak them, and I've begged everyone for hot chocolate filled care packages. Other than that, I can get rice, salt, sugar, fresh vegetables, and meat down the street, and all of that for the price of a box of cereal. That is probably what I should eat anyway, and not the packaged, preservative filled stuff. And even if I want the other stuff, I simply am not desperate enough...and I that kind of desperation is a long time coming - I'd rather spend my money on a trip to another city, a beautiful qipao (traditional Chinese dress), or a gift for a loved one. 32.80RMB for some hot chocolate -they must be outtatheyminds!

1 comment:

Memeeflye said...

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