Monday, January 17, 2005

Bulk Madness

I had the funniest experience tonight at typically Korean. I had been dyeing for bagels (we don't get a lot of Western food here) for weeks and we finally went to Costco to get some. I was also going to splurge on some cream cheese, which I haven't had in 6 months. I put the 10 gallons of cream cheese in the cart and headed for the bakery section. To my dismay there was only one bag of bagels left. I picked them up and a sales associate came up to me right away.

"Two fo' one" she said.

I looked at the sign and sure enough it was two bags for 5,400 won. I pointed to the empty table - "No more bagels" I said and pointed to the one bag in my arms.

"Two fo' one" she said.

Okay, something wasn't crossing the language barrier here. I gestured and pointed and used what little Korean I know to propose that I buy the one bag of bagels for half the price.

"No, no. Two fo' one." said the nice lady.

After more debate I finally decided that I was willing to pay full price for the bagels and buy one bag for 5,400 won. That's how bad I wanted these bagels. I was starting to get annoyed.

"Two fo' one" she said, looking at me like I was an idiot. Then she grabbed my bagels and ran away with them! She cradled them like a freakin football and took them into the back! I couldn't believe it! That lady had my bagels.

Why is this typically Korean you might ask. Is it Korean to steal your food? Nope. But it is very Korean to stick to rules long after they stopped making sense. Somebody said those bagels were to be sold for 2-for-1 and that's just the way it must be. Who was she to argue? From a business perspective it's just plain ludicrous. I ended up without the bagels and of course, put back the life time supply of cream cheese that I was about to purchase. Everybody loses.

But decorum and procedure are maintained, and that after all, is the point.

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