August 14, 2008

The Hypermarche

You'd think, this being China, that there would be tacky Olympic souvenirs available everywhere. But this isn't really so.

There are some small shops outside the venues, but nothing obviously available on the street. For a country that often has the new Harry Potter (book or CD) on the streets the same day it comes out in the theater (or store), there's a surprisingly law-and-order aspect to souvenirs here.

Yesterday we went to the big Olympic Super Store. It's a souvenir store located in the middle of a pavilion of corporate exhibits. There are no large advertisements, no big signage. We had to ask about it, and someone in the press center gave us directions.

When we got there, there was a line to get in. I'm not usually a big fan of waiting in line to spend money (during the soldes in Paris it always made me feel like I was in Moscow). But I did want some souvenirs and the tiny store in the press center only has super-upscale items like silk scarves and commemorative coins.

This is a pretty giant store, maybe the size of a standalone Gap? Paul estimates it as 50 yards wide, and 60 yards deep. (So, Gap-sized for women, half-a-football field for men)

Anyway, it was packed. There was stuff on every wall and lots of little doo-dads and things. We didn't come close to seeing all of it because a. it was crowded and b. I was with Paul, so shopping is kind of a targeted thing: Figure out what you want, get it, leave. I might go back to look more carefully.

Most of the people in the shop were Chinese tourists, and we saw a handful of Kazakh women's volleyball players. But people were certainly not in a hurry. The sales staff was friendly and helpful; we asked what a few things were, and the clerk demonstrated.

We picked up a few things -- including an Olympic Swatch for my birthday -- and went over to the checkout stand. Signs everywhere reminded us that, just like the TV ad says, at the Olympics they only take VISA. (I liked the part on the very long sign that indicated if your credit card doesn't begin with a 4, it won't work).

At least we didn't need to use the ATM.

1 comment:

MMR said...

Oh, you have a birthday coming up?
When is it? How old will you be?