25 September 2008

Culturally Confounded in Taiwan, Chapter Two

The continuing saga of Taiwanese confusion.

Chapter 2: Free Stuff
Now, don't get me wrong, I love free stuff. Who doesn't? Well, maybe my mom, when my dad brings it home from business trips and/or garage sales. But for the most part, free stuff is fun. And in Taiwan, it seems to come in inexplicable times and ways.

In our first weeks here, my roommates Dan and Dani decided to go to the nearby computer store and buy some electronic dictionaries. These weren't cheap (about $200 USD each), but certainly on the cheaper end of the kind of merchandise sold in the store (laptops, LCD TV's... think Circuit City without the movies and music). When they finally made their purchase, the salesman threw in two trinkety "UFO Alarm Clocks." Because... you can't use your Chinese dictionary without having blinking lights to wake you up in the morning.

Last weekend, I went to a local cosmetic-y store (think CVS without the pharmacy) to buy sunscreen and maybe one or two unnecessary impulse buys. The total was not more than $15 US, but still, the woman grabbed a loofah from out of nowhere and said "送給你." Why did I get a loofah? I don't know. Why did the woman before me in line, who spent way more than I did, not get a loofah? I don't know.

And finally, convenience stores. Particularly during the first month, I seemed to get random discounts left and right at the Family Mart downstairs (initially deemed the "blonde discount"). And when I didn't get discounts, I'd get tiny stickers with cartoon characters on them that are supposed to go... somewhere. Think of it as something like McDonald's Monopoly, except you don't have a Monopoly board and you (probably) don't win a million dollars if you fill it up. You only get a million dollars from your receipt. Duh.

This whole experience of randomly and inexplicably getting free stuff is kind of like when you get ExtraBucks and coupons with your ExtraCare card at CVS. It's great when you get $4 off your next purchase, and bizarre when you get 50% off something you've never heard of... and who doesn't love that feeling of not knowing what's coming at the end of every purchase?

PS: I realize this is coming right after the first "chapter." I actually wrote that last night and forgot to post it. Oops.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Part of the free stuff comes from drawing in new customers-- as soon as they've seen your face more than 3 times, they may stop with the gifts. Another reason may be that you obviously don't look "Taiwanese," whatever that means. Again, they're hoping to lure you into business by giving random giveaways. I'd be interested to see if this continues for your entire duration in Taiwan!