A salute to the Chinese retailer

Today we start by celebrating the biggest genius in the business world: the disaporic Chinese retailer. These guys spread themselves around the planet selling the right thing at the right time in the right place. Two examples from readers:

1) A man-creche for babysitting bored males who hate shopping existed in Singapore several decades ago, said reader R. Mahendra Raj of Kuala Lumpur (referring to a so-called “new” proposal from IKEA, the furniture chain store).

At the heart of a cluster of clothes shops in Serangoon Road, a smart Chinese retailer set up a coffee shop (which actually served beer), he said. “The longer the woman shopped, the longer was the happy hour for the men-folk.”

One day the retailer noticed that the women eventually ran out of shopping cash and the men ran out of beer money. So he added one more store between the boutiques and the coffee shop, Mahendra said: “A pawn shop.”

2) A reader who works as a security consultant told me he was dying for a beer with his lunch but found himself in a swelteringly hot part of the United Arab Emirates where alcohol was illegal.

“Sorry, you can only have tea,” the waiter at the Chinese restaurant told him.

Sinking in depression, he reluctantly agreed.

The waiter shortly afterwards re-appeared with two teapots, asking: “What type of tea would you like? Heineken or Carlsberg?”


Readers also discussed a “manliness test” for Asian males, who have been accused of being wimpier than Western ones. There are many give-away signs. Real men don’t carry man-bags. Real men shout at the TV. Real men don’t drink through straws.

Otis Schindler, a masculine Asian male reader, said it was a matter of vocabulary. “Real men don’t shop, we pillage,” he said. “And we don’t dress. We ‘gear up’.”

Sri Ram proposed key questions men could ask themselves: “Do you see a stylist instead of a barber? Do you have multiple sets of shoes, sunglasses or watches?”

A macho reader named Mike volunteered to answer questions on his manliness.

1) Q: What is a vegetable?

Mike: “A food item which comes out of a bottle marked ‘Ketchup’.”

2) Q: Have you ever had an opinion on what color curtains would fit best in a particular room?

Mike: “No. This can be bypassed with the cunning use of zero curtains.”

3) Q: How many colors are there in your wardrobe?

Mike: “At least four: light black, dark black, medium black and almost black.”

4) Q: How many names can you think for the color red?

Mike: “One. Red.”

Wow, Mike is so male he makes Chris Colfer from Glee look male. Wait. Never mind. Everybody in my office agreed that Mike had to be a Westerner.

But Asian male Sri Ram is also a Real Man. When someone gave him a salad for lunch, he said: “Starter is there. Where is the food?”

But he did claim to know three words for the color red: “Ferrari, Bugatti and Pagani.”

The most perceptive comment came from a female reader, Sunita Lau: “The key difference between men and women is that men have no idea what they look like. That’s why they comb their hair over their bald patch and think they look good in Speedos.”


MEANWHILE, I received one more report about the “Occupy Wall St” protests which have sprung up in all the major financial centres of the world. This is a pic of the scene at the “Occupy Singapore” protest.

With very few exceptions, the protests were peaceful, good-natured and witty, with excellent relations between the authorities and the protestors—but not in Singapore where the powers were typically heavy handed, publishing a warning that people could be arrested just for showing up. You’ve got it hand it to them, the Singapore government does a marvelously consistent job of making itself look bad.

Coming up on Friday: The world's youngest taxi drivers.