Friday, November 28, 2008

Riding the Hard Sell

Hard Seat (regular class) train travel in China, never a relaxing way to travel, has recently become even less restful. In addition to the smokers, standers, seat stealers, and cell phone shouters, there are now sellers; not the kind pushing carts with drinks, snacks, and instant noodles, but China Railway employees hawking - like State Fair barkers - an assortments of products from toothbrushes to latex gloves to Chairman Mao gold plated medallions to ultraviolet counterfeit money detectors.

They work the car from one end to the other, sometimes two in one car, dropping a sample on each table, giving a loud and long pitch – it slices, it dices - then returning to pick up the sample and asking if you want to buy. They are annoying and rude, sometimes waking up sleeping passengers to ask “want one?” and targeting kids with trinkets and spinning glowing tops.

What’s the deal? We saw this selling on two different trains in the Hangzhou to Kunming corridor. Is it a new program to raise money for China Railways? The latex gloves were packaged as a CR product, complete with logo. Are the sellers regualr CR employees? Are they paid by commission?

As usual in China, none of the passengers complained about this loud and annoying practice, although our older seatmate did agree it was annoying and suspected that someone was paid off to let sellers on the train and thought that the uniforms were fake.

Selling the counterfeit bill detector.
Selling an Ultraviolet Conterfeit Bill Detector ...

Selling latex gloves.
Selling Latex Gloves on the train to Huaihua

Toothbrushes and Latex Gloves with Railway Logo
Toothbrushes For Sale - China RailwaysGloves for Sale on China Railway Trains

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