Friday, July 1, 2011

No Largie: A Tale of Shopping in Pohang

So last week Rich and I mosied downtown for a little shopping. I was in the market for a new workout shirt, and I was determined to find one that day. We walked downtown in drizzling weather, just glad the downpour we had earlier in the day had stopped for a while.

When we got downtown, I checked out every athletics shop on the town's 'walking street', a long strip of stores, restaurants, DVD bangs, and even an arcade. There are a surprising amount of American specialty stores here, such as Adidas, Asics, Hang Ten, Nike Golf, and even a Fubu store. Frankly, I didn't know anyone had bought anything from Fubu since 1999... but what do I know.

Sure, this sounds like it would add up to a lot of variety and choice, but that's not the case... Unless you're a size 3. And I am not. The problem is that each store only keeps one of each style in stock, and generally this is in an extra small or small, or sometimes, only in an extra large. Boo. The other problem is that everything is insanely overpriced. Let's say I would pay in the range of $100 for a damn shirt. Too. Much.

So this went on as we went into every store, the problem always being that nothing fit or it didn't fit my budget. Finally I decided to check out the Nike store, my last remaining option before I threw in the towel. I walked in and was greeted by about four or five women in the store, none too happy to see a wagook enter their store. Many unenthusiastic "Anyong Haseyoo"'s were exchanged.

They had a larger variety than any other store, so I was excited. I basically thought I would try on everything, so I picked up everything I might like in a medium and large, so about 8 or 10 shirts. The prices weren't even that bad, I was pumped.

With our pidgin English and Korean, I was even able to ask a woman if she had a large in one style. She checked the computer and replied with a quick, "Opsayo (none), no largie." Ok, no big deal, and shopped on. Apparently, she interpreted this as meaning that I was only interested in larges and went down the line of shirts and pointing to each of them and repeating, "Opsayo, no largie. No largie. No largie." Okay lady, I get it. No woman in Korea is largie. Rub it in a little more. But I knew this already, I was prepared, it didn't get to me.

But then I wanted to try on the shirts I thought I might like, so I went to the front desk with my finds and asked for the fitting room. The gaggle of saleswomen inspected my choices, as one grabbed a medium and repeated, "Aniyo, largie opsayo, no largie". Yes, I know. I repeated I wanted to try it on. One woman sighed and replied with a quick "neee (yes)", and proceeded to ring up ALL the shirts I picked out to try on! Something was clearly getting lost in translation here. I stopped her as soon as I realized this and again pointed to the fitting room. She gave me a dramatic sigh and led me to the dressing room with ONE shirt. Apparently, I could only try on one at a time. Annoying at best, since I had about seven LARGIE shirts I wanted to try on.

The 'fitting room' is another story altogether, since it's really less of a dressing room and more of a... corner with a door on it. There isn't even a mirror inside the dressing room! I tried on one shirt, it didn't work, took it off, redressed entirely, exchanged shirts, went into the sweltering hot steam-box corner room, tried on another shirt, and so on. It. Was. Ridiculous.

After doing this about 4 times, and getting legitimately stuck in one shirt, I finally found one that worked. It was good enough for me, and frankly I had gone through so much trouble I DIDN'T want to leave empty handed. So I brought my shirt up to the cash register to pay. The woman, without even a smile or a word rung up my shirt, gave me my receipt, and bagged it up for me. In a paper bag.

This might not have been a problem, but since the time we had entered the store, it had started to downpour AGAIN. This was serious monsoon-esque rain. In the time it took us to run to the bus stop, this bag had disintegrated to the point where my new shirt, freshly bought, had nearly fallen out. Serious fail. It was raining so hard, by the time we got home, we were soaked down to our socks, and little fragments of this stupid white paper bag were littered all over my black rain coat.

But we finally made it home and I was glad to make it there. my goal of the day was completed and I was ready to leave this whole "largie" issue behind me and swear to never shop in Pohang again. Then, looking at my shirt, I realized the woman who had rung me up had CUT OFF THE TAGS so that I would never be able to return it if I wanted to. Never in my life have I heard of such a ridiculous thing before. In my frenzy to just leave the store, I had missed her doing this, and now I was home with this shirt I would never be able to return, and a receipt that is effectively useless to me. By this point, I was torn between being steaming mad and flabbergasted laughing fits.

Luckily I like it and it served its purpose. But seriously, I am never shopping in Pohang again.

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