The Eternal Dilemma of Buying Things

8 11 2008

I spent the day today clothes shopping. I ended up with nothing.

Shopping in Lima – true to the nature of the city itself – is crazy and completely uncontrolled.

Just about everything outside of the few main department stores is a pirate or a fake. In some parts of town, stalls sprawl across the pavements of streets with varying degrees of quality pirate movies, cds and computer games. Which is good if you want to watch a movie for next to nothing, but bad if you dont want this to be marred by disc skipping, audio problems and silhouettes of heads moving across the front of the cinema screen where the movie was recorded.

By and large, different districts of the city host clusters of stores selling the same type of good. There are areas where computer software is sold (pirated of course), there are streets of book sellers (many ringbound photocopies) and neighbourhoods of electronics stores (these dont so much have fakes as expensive imports for sale). Today I was in a clothes section of town: a street composed of near hundreds of shops dedicated to the religion of clothing. They are arranged in rather haphazard fashion, not one area of wall was wasted where a display or colourful entrance could be held.

a shopping street in Lima - blurred ... ahem ... to emphasise craziness ... yeah

a shopping street in Lima - blurred ... ahem ... to emphasise craziness ... yeah

After searching the entire street i could find no decent pair of trousers that was long enough to cover to my entire leg. The fakes were again plentiful: I lost count of the number of fakey brand names that i saw. Luckily it was easy to spot the worst of these when after just seconds of examination it was possible to pull threads clean from the stitches of the trousers. Even amongst the better quality clothes I could find absolutely nada, there are definite disadvantages to being tall, especially in a country where people are generally small.

I will probably have to settle for one of the main department stores – Ripley or Saga – for my trouser needs. These are located in more well off parts of town and have rather a more western mall-like feel to them but are markedly more expensive than their tiny-room-with-entrance-opening-onto-a-mobbed-street counterparts.

Walking down one of these shopping streets is an experience in itself. Today I was harrassed by people from all sides, thier favourite advertisment allure was the repeated shout of “Lacoste, ropas de lacoste, lacoste la mejor”. After I hazarded a mere glance ate one pair of trousers that a salesman was selling he tailed me for at least a minute as I tried to walk away, shouting at me to make sure that there was no mistake of what an unbelievable offer I was missing.

This is life in Peru: there is always a middle man who’s job it is to advertise and sell absolutely anything and everything to people walking down the street minding their own business: shops, buses, restaurants, candies, cigarettes, massages, chewing gum, casinos, empanadas, fruit, drugs, entertainment … you can see where i’m going with this. From what I can gather this culture is born out of the fact that there just isnt enough jobs to go around. People have to do anything to try and make money and creating jobs that purely involve selling things – anything – is one way to give paid, commissioned work to more people.

This works on many levels. At the top end you have a guy who stands outside a classy restaurant to try and lure you inside with special deals and a neatly prepared sales pitch in which he competes with other such fellows from nearby restaurants to win your custom. I have perfected the art of just plain ignoring these people and not reacting to a single word that they say, it just puts me off and makes me think “if your trying so hard to sell this place, it cant be very popular, which means it cant be very good”.

The sad thing is that at the bottom end of the scale many salespeople are children. It’s pretty heartbreaking to turn down a seven year old who is scurrying around the streets trying desperately to find somebody to give them money for some of the sweets or candies or whatever it is that lies in a tray held in place by a strap looping around the back of their neck.




2 responses

22 10 2009
Michael Glennon

Simon!!!, Are you still out there?, what’s going down?. Your pictures are just splendid let me know what is happening.



22 10 2009

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