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Chan Lowe: The Great Drywall of China (II)

drywallx.gifI once went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Oakland, CA, with a woman who hailed from Shanghai. It was way, way off the tourist track.

The mirrored walls were covered with Chinese characters. “What’s that?” I asked.

“That’s the menu for Chinese customers,” she said. “The printed menu is for gwylos (foreign devils).”

My dinner partner then entered into a lengthy, animated conversation in Shanghai dialect with the restaurant's owner. Eventually, he bowed and left us. “I was negotiating the price of the meal with him,” she said. “I know his family in China.”

In a little while, a multi-course feast arrived, replete with foods of doubtful origin. “What is this stuff?” I said to my companion, as I poked at what looked like an endocrine gland with my chopstick.

“Don’t ask. If you like the way it tastes, eat it.”

The experience taught me something important about the way Chinese approach business transactions. There is an understanding that the burden is on the purchaser to make sure he is not being taken. Certainly, the concept of a third party--a governmental entity, for example--that exists to ensure the quality of the merchandise is alien to the intimacy and mutual trust of a one-on-one transaction.

In the Chinese view, if you bought it, it’s yours. If you’re not happy afterwards with your purchase, you should have taken greater care up front to familiarize yourself with the reliability and reputation of its provenance. There are no guarantees in life.

It isn’t dishonest; just culturally different. "Caveat emptor," as they say in Shanghai.

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No problem, just use all American made products which will guarantee their quality and also generate revenue for our country that is on the verge of economic collapse....oh, wait, we don't make anything in America anymore. Never mind.

Spot on!

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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