Sunday, December 09, 2007

Wedding Dress

On Sunday, I went to Suzhou (a town not far from Shanghai), to the famous wedding dress street to find my wedding dress. I already had a picture that I wanted to make a few minor adjustments to, so thankfully my search was very directed. Wedding dress shopping, especially on a street full of shops dedicated tot hat purpose, can be information overload for a person like me. I am not a sport shopper - I do not have the patience, aptitude, finances, or disposition to go shopping just for the sake of shopping. I can spend my fair share of hours in the store (usually waiting for the fitting room), but I am almost always a goal oriented shopper. Get in, get what I want, get out. As quickly as possible.

Accompanying me was my TA, L-Squared. L-Squared is absolutely wonderful. Asside from regular work related things (Will you make 4 photocopies of this novel? I have new students and can't order more books on time. Thanks!), she also does a plethora of not exactly work related things (Can you buy some of that tea that makes you skinny for me please, five boxes? Can you tell this cab company that the driver ripped me off and go pick up the money he owes me? Thanks.Can you cancel your driving lesson this weekend even though you're taking the road test in two weeks and take me to the place in Suzhou where you buy wedding dresses? You're the greatest!), L-squared does it all.

So, L-squared and I met at 7:00 on Sunday morning (I was late) and got lots of exercise running, no sprinting, through subway terminals and the railway station so as not to miss our 7:40 train (like I said, I was late). We made it, right in the nick of time. About 35 minutes later, we arrive in Suzhou (which, by the way, is nothing like Shanghai) and took a taxi to the "Wedding Street" as she told the taxi driver. As it was minutes to 9 when we arrived at the street, the stores were just opening up. The first two stores reminded me why I think that most wedding dresses are ugly dresses. Honestly, if they weren't white and marketed as wedding dresses, very few women would wear most of these dresses ( I hope). I was gearing up for a long day, but then we saw a store with dresses that looked pretty good. This, our third store, was a gem. We looked around a little, inspected quality and style, and then asked if they make dresses, quickly. They said that was not a problem, I gave them my picture, and we discussed the dress.

I wanted a different fabric (the dress in the picture is made of satin, too hot). I tried on dresses of different fabrics to see how heavy they were. Finally we decided on a cotton silk blend, which I think will look nice. Then the color. Not bright white, but not the yellowed tinged one with the fabric I wanted that they had on display. No problem, she doesn't have any in stock, but she showed me a swatch of the color and said she would buy it. Do you want a small train? No. They were a little surprised, but I can skip the dress dragging on the ground. Especially because this will be my reception dress, which means meet-and-great, and dancing, too much potential for accidents. Floor length is fine. Oh, and I want this tucking to go down a little further. Ok. And a good supportive bra, not the one you give Chinese girls. Oh, it can come out. No, I say, I do not want to take it out, I want it to be good and supportive, because I need it, all day. No problem. We ironed out the details, I asked questions, they asked questions and we agreed. Now the most important part, the price.

And here is where L-squared blew my mind. I had told her beforehand how much I budgeted for the dress, my absolute limit. I told her that even if they quote a price that is under-budget, she has to bargain her butt off, because we both know that my foreign face equals price increase. And she did that to perfection. They quoted price that was less than half of my budget. And she argued. And bargained. And even got very creative. I can understand most of what she said, but in order to make things work better, I allowed her to translate anything beyond the most simple Chinese. That way they could go back and forth, and talk about foreigners, and the shop-keepers are not worried about me. Works better. And when bargaining for big-ticket items, it is no small affair. It takes serious verbal dexterity and creativeness.

Because the original price quoted was less than half of my budget, I would have taken it without argument. But not L-Squared. After she promised to bring back lots of business in the coming year, including herself (she is currently single), and talked about the foreign business I could bring (and then they could charge more), told them that I was getting married abroad, and that the dress better be the best quality because otherwise foreigners would have a bad impression of Chinese goods (which packs extra punch right now), said that the street was full of shops and although we didn't want to go somewhere else, we could...after all of that, when they were down to the last little 50 RMB
(about 5 Euros, 3 GBP, 6.50 USD), she talked to me in English for a minute (more for dramatic effect than anything else, as she knows I understood most of it, but she also wanted to know what I was thinking at this point, being as I hadn't said a word). Then she told them, "Let me tell you something about foreigners. You know they like to give tips. So, even she (referring here to me) is thinking, what is the big deal about 50 RMB? But, if you charge her the 50 RMB, you don't get a tip. If you don't charge her the extra 50, then you get a tip, and if she is really happy with the dress when you are done, if you do a good, high quality job, she will give you at least 50 RMB, maybe more." Worked like a charm. they took my measurements, and I handed over 600 RMB for my wedding dress.

Yes, 600 RMB, you do the math. So, when I go back to pick it up I will take pictures and you all can let me know if you think I got a deal, a steal, or ripped-off. Until then, you'll just have to wait with baited breath. And if it is as good as I think it will be, then I think I have finally topped my mothers best bargain. Thanks L-Squared!

Post Script: Oh, and the picture above is not my dress, or even the shop where I got my dress. It was the only brown mannequin on the entire street, and so you know I had to take a picture!

1 comment:

Memeeflye said...

I hadn't been on bloglines since midterm so I was very happy to get an update. I wish I could be there. Having a reception in the States?