Steve’s China Adventure: What a Deal!

May 17, 2013

By: Steve Hilgart, Director of Marketing & Conference Operations

Steve's China Adventure - What A DealI received a lot of feedback on my last article about my current travels abroad as well as people asking for the “next installment.”

Since my last email, I’ve ventured into the depths of Chinese culture, found some amazing places to shop, and ate bugs and bull testicles – dericious.

Every day is a new adventure in this strange land, and while I’ve managed to avoid the human feces and mystery water on the sidewalk, there are things that I have completely and miserably failed at…

“Have You Eaten A Horse?”

If you’ve never studied Chinese before, it’s a very tonal language…

I quickly learned an innocent pick-up line of “Nì chī lē ?” or “What’s up girl?” can easily turn into “Nì chī lē ?” which translates to “Did you eat a horse?


Needless to say, nothing kills the mood like implying a woman is fat.

I think I need another lesson with my Chinese Tutor…

I know how we all enjoy laughing at my misfortune, but can we just move on now? 

The coolest thing I’ve learned is that this part of China is a…

Capitalist’s Dream

I can’t begin to count the amount of businesses that are here!  The night markets which pop up all over the city go for blocks and blocks.  During the day there are shopping centers that I can only describe as massive – and that’s from someone who spent a large part of his childhood in the Mall of America.

There are thousands of products and food items that change hands (some cleaner than others) each night and every transaction is cash. 

For a country that boasts a 25% corporate tax, a 5-45% personal income tax, and a 17% sales tax – I highly doubt the government sees anything from the massive amount of transactions that happen on a daily basis (not that I’m complaining!).

Once in a while, the police come through to break the vendors up but they certainly don’t try too hard and the vendors just set up on the next block (who needs bricks and mortar when you have a van?).

But what really fascinates me about the whole thing are the…

Low, Low, Prices!

In a past life I sold cell phones for a living.  If you know anything about that business – you can’t buy phones without a contract, and if you do, you pay full retail which is anywhere from $199 to $999.

Today I took a little trip to one of the electronics stores (which is 5 levels with nearly 100 stores on each floor), to buy a basic Samsung cell phone. 

It’s a cheaper phone but I know that this model in particular would cost $149-$199 retail in the U.S.   What did I pay? Less than $30 – and I didn’t even haggle (which I could have).

Sure, I’ve seen some pretty cheesy knock-offs (iPood, anyone?), but some of this stuff is extremely hard to tell apart from the real thing – shoes, clothes, electronics – anything you can imagine (and more!).

I’ve now seen exact replicas of what you could get on U.S. shelves for 1/10th the price. 

Yesterday’s adventure involved probably the greatest find in foreigners-living-in-Jinan history…

The Tailor’s

A friend and I heard that there was a shop that sold tailor-made clothes – and they were cheap!  So we hopped in a cab to find this little store across the city.

What we found was probably the coolest clothes shopping experience around.

I expected a tiny little shop with an old Chinese lady, a needle, and thread – but what I found was three humongous malls of clothing stores that spilled out into the streets and the alley-ways.

The amount of clothes in these stores was mind-boggling.  I have never seen so much inventory in my life!

Much like the electronics stores I mentioned, each building was at least 5 stories (with two basement levels).  And that doesn’t include the alley-ways, the streets, and everywhere else there was spillover.

How about a custom made, tailor-fitted, t-shirt for 30 RMB (which translates to $5)? 

What about a custom tailored knock-off suit for $14? 

Sure you may be saying “but I like my $12,000 suit,” – which is great – more power to you, BUT the untrained eye would never know the difference.  And even to the trained eye, they would have to be very up-close and personal to notice they aren’t actually hand-stitched.

At these prices, I’ll go for the fitted knock-off anytime.

But what is really mind-blowing is that, in China, you can purchase the material, the labor, the distribution, the packaging, and have everyone still make a profit for less than 1/10th the normal (i.e. American) price?  The economics here are nothing short of amazing.

It makes me think long and hard about our own U.S. government and why exactly the prices of everything have been sky-rocketing for the past few years.

Those seem to be the things, though, that are…

Out Of My Control

But the more I live the “P.T.” lifestyle, the more I see how much control an individual can really have.  If you aren’t tied down to a certain location – the possibilities are endless.

The entire time I’ve been here, I have eaten at the most expensive restaurants, got a gym membership, bought electronics, explored the city, saw some sights, and much more – and the best part?  I’ve spent less than $400 living like a king.

The “Geo-Arbitrage” strategy really does work, and I’m living proof.  There is a lot of world to see and I hope I can convince you to see it all.

Until next time,

Have a fantastic day and live well

7 thoughts on “Steve’s China Adventure: What a Deal!”

  1. Pingback: May/Early June Update | Cool By Intent

  2. Nicki Tompkins

    I love that you’re sharing your travels, but bugs and bull testicles, REALLY???!! The US is so far off the beaten path when it comes to profits. Chew up the little guy and spit him out after you take all his money, one way or another. I’ve talked to people who live on countries with a real government, not a corporate one like the US, and it’s not much different there either. The East seem to know what they’re doing.

    I look forward to a day, when we’re all free and money and/or any type of exchange is a thing of the past.

    Keep sending your journal, I’m enjoying it!

    1. That is a ridiculous statement. End money AND “any type of exchange”? That is so off the wall it’s the next time zone over from the wall. No one person can produce everything people need or want. Exchange, in the form of millions of unguided small interpersonal actions is how the gaps are filled. Money is just a convenience tool for same when it’s not being jacked around by power seekers.

      A world in which there was no money or no exchange would not be free; it would be a society of serfs getting what someone DECIDED they needed.

      Unless someone invents a replicator, there will always be exchange. In fact, even if someone invents a replicator, there will STILL be exchange. The limited commodity then will be the creativity of people who design things to make with the replicator, an intrinsically limited, thus valuable specie.

      1. Kelly Diamond

        Who is suggesting ending money and any type of exchange? Where did you get that from in this article?

  3. Interesting to me how, sixty years ago, the Hong Kong dollar was just over 7:1 against the US dollar, while the Yen was 360:1.

    I went into Mohan’s in Hong Kong about the time they opened and ordered a pair of slacks and two sports shirts. The pants and one of the shirts were done before closing time–and quite reasonable for a GI’s billfold.

    1. Note that the HKD is actually pegged to the USD, and fluctuates in a very narrow band. The buying power, on the other hand, is another story. Some stuff is comparatively expensive, while other things are cheap. A good converter app can tell you when you’re getting a good deal.

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