Saturday, April 30, 2016

don't trust websites: they lie

Per a comment by perennial contrarian/one-upsman John from Daejeon, I tried to hit Haddon Supermarket last night in my quest for foreign food. In one of his comments, John had linked to two Haddon-related websites, here and here. Both sites provided similar descriptions of the market, as well as contact information. The TexaSeoul blog (second link) had specific directions and listed the business hours as 8:30AM to 9PM.

On Tuesday the 26th, while I was at work, I had tried calling Haddon once to confirm their hours of operation, but there'd been no answer, which I thought didn't bode well. On the day I'd called, I had thought about just trundling out there; the lack of an answer to my call made me decide to table the trip until later, as the market was likely closed. Yesterday, though, I said "Fuck it" and elected to make the trip out to Haddon anyway. At the very least, I could reconnoiter the route. So I left the office around 7:30PM and headed north to Oksu-dong, the district where Haddon is located.

The directions on the TexaSeoul blog say this:

Itaewon Station. Line 6. Exit 4. Walk straight to the first bus stop. Take bus 110B for 8 stops to Okjeong Middle School. Turn right when you exit bus and walk ~30 seconds. The building is on the left. You will see a sign for Haddon House – that is the back entrance. Walk around the right of the building to the main entrance. The store is downstairs.

The subway-and-bus part of the directions were fine; no problem. The "walk 30 seconds" part was bullshit, as it's closer to a minute, but I'll forgive the writer's lack of a sense of time: Koreans themselves are often optimistic when they tell you how long it takes to walk somewhere; a 25-minute walk will often be described as taking "maybe ten minutes." I also didn't see any big sign for Haddon; I had to look inside one of the building's several entrances, and I saw a sign for Haddon set way back from the front door, hanging over a downward-leading staircase to the B1-level market.

In looking at the route via Google Maps on my cell phone, I saw that Haddon actually sat very close to Oksu Station (it's in Oksu-dong, after all), which made me wonder why the writer of the directions would want to make everyone take such a roundabout way to the store. John from Daejeon's comment noted that the walk from Oksu Station would involve some "fortitude," as he put it, and I soon found out why: after I'd found Haddon and begun to walk toward Oksu Station, I quickly discovered that the Oksu Station-Haddon Supermarket walking route goes up (or down, depending on your direction of travel) a steep hill that would be like a miniature Namsan hike for me, in my current shape. I realized the blog writer had been trying to save us all some pain and agony, as it's all uphill from Oksu Station.

The store, when I got there, was closed tighter than a virgin's thighs. An old man sitting in a concierge-like space close to the descending staircase seemed like a Person Who Knew Things, so I lumbered up to him, interrupting his TV-watching, and asked him what time Haddon normally closed. "Seven," he replied. "What about on weekends?" I asked. "Seven," he said again, with a smile. I thanked the old man, bowed, and left.

So now I know. I know that Haddon sits on a steep hill if you approach it from Oksu Station, and I know that its hours of operation go until 7PM every day. This may explain why no one had answered my phone call before: I had tried to call around 6:45PM this past Tuesday; the staff would have been prepping the store for closure at that hour.

While the trip to Haddon felt as though I'd wasted my time, I now had some information that I hadn't had before. It could be that the "9PM" listed on the TexaSeoul blog had been correct at one point, and that Haddon had reduced its hours because of a lack of business. Whatever the case, it's almost never a good idea to trust what's written online: verify for yourself. I knew that particular life-hack already, of course: it's why I'd tried to call the store in the first place.

Armed with my hard-won knowledge, I'll be attempting Haddon again this weekend. In Korea, where nothing proceeds in a linear way, it often takes two tries to get things right.


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