Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Finest quality. MUCH NICER! 

When Dan and Eleanor were trekking across India the national catchphrase to compliment possessions or to sell a product was "finest quality." When Eleanor was signing a hotel receipt with her own pen the hotel clerk asked to see her pen, an ordinary ballpoint. He examined it slowly and carefully and as he returned it to he said with approval, "Your pen is of the absolute finest quality."

Another time Eleanor went to go buy toilet paper. She dreaded the errand because the smallest transaction, even for intimate personal items, was always a big, involved process requiring a lot of tedious haggling and time consuming negotiation. The sales clerk presented her with a roll of toilet paper, and then unfurled a few squares as if her were unrolling the finest Persian rug. He waved his hand with an elegant flourish and asked her to examine it herself. Unlike his American counterpart Mr. Whipple, he wanted her to squeeze the roll and pinch the squares so she could marvel at the loft of the tissue. After she touched it, he said smugly, "As you can see, this is of the finest quality." Even though the toilet practically cut her fingers with its coarseness she played along and said, "Yes. Certainly the finest quality I have ever felt."

They were constantly approached and hassled by people trying to beg, sell items, offer their services or con them. The most outrageous come on was when they were traveling in a rickshaw and passed another rickshaw going the opposite direction. The driver of the empty rickshaw yelled at them, "You need rickshaw?" Since they were already in a rickshaw traveling quickly the opposite direction Dan looked at him dumbfounded. Even as the distance rapidly grew between them the rickshaw driver continued his sales pitch and the last thing they heard was a faint " I promise the FINEST Quaaaliteeeeeee."

Lately I've noticed that the common saying to upsell or convince the reluctant buyer among the Chinese in this city has become "MUCH NICER!" I was working in the predominately Chinese area of town and went to a corner market to buy a snack. Most of the products were unrecognizable but I did find some Cheetoes, but only the spicy hot variety. When I asked the store clerk if she had any regular Cheetoes she said, "No. But buy the spicy! MUCH NICER!"

Elizabeth was getting her legs waxed at our neighborhood salon, which is Chinese owned and operated. After the waxing technician finished with her legs she asked Elizabeth if she wanted her bikini line waxed as well. Elizabeth was in a hurry so she declined. The woman gave her a look of reproach and asked, "Are you sure? MUCH NICER!"

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