Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Couch

Our search for a couch had ground to a halt. The prices on Furniture Mountain had generally started at 800,000 won (£421/$688) for anything comfortable, and this seemed high compared to some of the local stores we'd visited, so we resolved to try again later.

Unfortunately the first opportunity which really arose was the one Sunday in three when a lot of stores seem to be closed, which meant our browsing choices were limited, and when we arrived at the store where we'd bought our desks, the owner was nowhere to be found even though it was open. I tried out the couches and the office chairs, waited, went outside, stared up and down the street, and marvelled at the evident lack of crime - or fear of it- which allowed a business owner to desert his premises on a regular basis. I suspected he was out delivering to a customer.

He returned ten minutes later and we asked about the item we were interested in - 680,000 won (£358/$585), which was an improvement on the Furniture Mountain prices, but not so much that we could do a deal there and then - we would return with an ajumma to battle the store owner. Fast forward 30 minutes and Korean Mother is sat with us in the store, loudly disbelieving the expense of the item. I'd seen this before when buying furniture for our apartment the first time we lived here, but some of the amusement value had been replaced with embarrassment. 'Apparently' she knew people at the factory and there was no way 680,000 won was a fair price. The store owner seemed as taken aback by this revelation as everyone else was. The battle ebbed and flowed and I stepped outside for a while so I could cringe in private.

When I returned the price had dropped to 500,000 won (£263/$430) and Korean Mother was promising to come back and buy everything else we needed from him, to which the store owner replied in an exasperated voice "What difference does it make when you're leaving me with no margin?!" The deal was done and the couch will be delivered tomorrow.

As we left Korean Mother thanked him and said "We'll come back later for some bookcases." to which I heard the desperate reply "No! Please don't!" I think he might have actually meant it.

About 20 minutes after we'd arrived home Korean Mother phoned up the store owner. The day before she'd bought some artwork which needed hanging on the wall - would the owner bring his drill and do it for her while he was here? What struck me as a completely outrageous request was simply met with "Yes, OK" at the other end of the phone, because this is how things can be done in Korea, or maybe he just wanted it to all be over.

1 comment:

kimchilover said...

In '97 I revisited Korea and did some travelling with some friends. Went to Chinju, which I liked a lot and while there we went to the local National Park.
It was hot and I needed a new cap.
camped out by the refreshment stand were the ever present ajumas hustling various sundry items including caps.
As I approached I could see the fear in their eyes..Here comes a big nose and I can't speak English!!!
Well, I do remember SOME of my Korean and began to haggle for the cap, much to their collective amusement.
When my cap selling ajuma gave me her first price, I recoiled in shock and said.
"Is this made of gold"? (well, you had to be there)
This drew a chorus of laughter and she actually offered to give me the cap for free!!!
I did not accept that of course, but i gave her what I thought was a fair price.'
It was the highlight of my trip..

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