Mido Jonghap Sangga (or just Mido Sangga), the old, run-down building in which I work, is a complex* filled with all sorts of shops, salons, restos, and offices. You can find a surprising variety of decent to high-quality items here, but the one thread that unites all this diversity is that everything in this building is way more expensive than it should be.** The ladies who do repairs and alterations on my clothes charge an absurd 8,000-9,000 won per clothing item (down in Daegu, I was charged around 2,000 won, to give you an idea of how bad the gouging is in Seoul). The bakery's prices are about 10-15% too high... and then there's the lady selling pots and flatware. I bought a W38,000 stone pot from her the other day; it's proven to be a very high-quality vessel, and I'm growing to love it, but I'd rather have paid about half that price for it. Just yesterday, I went back to that lady (because she's the only game in town) to see about buying some plain white dinner plates. I pointed at the plates in question and asked how much she wanted for them, thinking she'd say something like "5,000 won each."
She said, "12,000 won."
I was staggered. For fucking plates?
I laughed and told her that was way too expensive, and that you could get similar plates at a Daiso (Japanese-style dollar store) for maybe 3,000 won. She tried to say that such plates were much lower in quality, but I knew that was bullshit. She asked me how many plates I was looking to buy; I told her two. She said she'd be willing to give me the plates for a reduced price: 11,000 won each. I laughed again. "Sorry, but let me think about it," I told her.
It's not that I believe the woman is evil or anything like that. She is shameless, though, because she and I both know the going rate for a standard dinner plate, and it ain't no 12,000 won. No plate is worth that much.
*The Sino-Korean term jonghap (종합/綜合; 綜 jong = "collecting/gathering" and 合 hap = "harmony, integration, putting-together") refers to diverse things being grouped together; the rough translation "complex" approaches this idea. When you buy multi-symptom cold medicine in Korea, it's called jonghap gamgi yak, where gamgi means "cold" and yak means "medicine." In other words, it's medicine that will treat a bundle of symptoms.
**This is, by the way, why all the non-chain mom-and-pop stores are dying: they insist on fucking the customer with shamelessly high prices. You might reply that part of the problem is the cost of real estate, which means that merchants must charge a lot for their wares just to break even, but as a consumer, all I see are the inflated prices. Small shops will continue to die off because of this dynamic, fortunately or unfortunately.