Wednesday, November 16, 2016

how much would you pay for a damn dinner plate?

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.


Charles said...

What is the dinner plate made of, though? I mean, quality porcelain plates from a big name brand can run pretty steep. I'm guessing that's not what shameless lady had for sale, though.

Is this for our shindig on Sunday, by the way? Just get paper plates—cheaper, less fuss, no clean-up.

Kevin Kim said...

"I mean, quality porcelain plates from a big name brand can run pretty steep. I'm guessing that's not what shameless lady had for sale, though."

Exactly. I'm obviously not talking about high-end china or plates made of silver. I'll swing by a Daiso and get the Korean equivalent of Corelle plates.

I thought about doing the paper-plate thing, but that seems a bit insulting. I may be po', but I have my pride.

Charles said...

I don't think it's a matter of being po' or not. It's just convenience. I, for one, would not be insulted. But if you need plates anyway, go for it.