6 Nov 2009. Shopping at Fremantle's E-Shed is about as close as you would get to shopping at, say, the Penang Bazaar ("Jual Murah") in Penang Road, George Town.
The E-Shed is filled with small business owners catering, I greatly suspect, more to tourists than the locals. When we arrived, we saw a family getting ready to leave the place. Ahh...Malaysian Malays. Can't be from anywhere else.
Several of the businesses at the E-Shed are run by Asians who have already made Australia their new homes. Nevertheless, their habits remain relatively unchanged. They made us feel almost at home in that kind of chaotic environment that only Asians could understand: goods stacked up on shelves and the floor space, hanging on the walls or from the ceilings - just about everywhere possible and without any apparent order - and shoppers allowed to touch and handle them freely. Not satisfied? No worries, just put them back anywhere!
The business owner's mannerisms and the way they speak .... these often betray their home countries. And of course, Asian tourists are delighted with them. They remind us too much of our own homes, a sort of affinity and camaraderie that translate into sales. Yes, I think many of the Asian business owners at the E-Shed are making good business because of the close cultural ties with their customers.
Overall, it was a good experience. We ended up buying too many souvenir items. But there was also an awkward situation when we tried to buy some macadamia nuts from a stall run by a Hongkong girl. We had seen prices that were cheaper at another part of the E-Shed and informed this girl that her prices were way too expensive.
"You're from overseas, right? You look like Singaporeans. How often do you come to Australia? Surely, you've come so far from your home that you wouldn't quibble with our prices?" the girl said.
I looked at her. I didn't want to correct her by telling us we are Malaysians, not Singaporeans. No, it wouldn't make any difference where we come from. But I had to tell her off. This is not the way to talk to your customers. So I asked her: "Are you trying to tell me that just because I'm a tourist, I shouldn't mind getting ripped off by paying exorbitant prices, that I should accept happily spend my money away without getting a good deal in return?"
She just stopped breathing. We coolly walked away from her. No way were we going to buy anything from her. Idiot. What a faux pas.
Later: Cappucino, anyone?
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