In every big city, shopping is such an easy thing. We find what we want, pay for it in cash, and bring it home. In Hong Kong, we can find anything we are looking for, in a whole range of different prices. If we can’t find something here, or wish to shop even more competitively for prices or for styles, without hesitation we would go online. Shopping has become such an innate part of our every day lives.
It has made me ponder a lot after being in Hoi An for a few days and experiencing the shopping experience here. Before I came, I knew I really didn’t need any special clothes made (tailor shops are one of the main attractions here). Working in the fashion industry, it is easy for me to get my hands on anything of exquisite quality all the time, and being in Hong Kong, shopping for anything can be a fast food experience to a gourmet meal experience, we take our picks. This time in Hoi An though, I still went to visit all the lovely friends in the tailor shops from past trips, being aware to not be carried away in purchasing more than I really need, but at the same time, opening to experiencing more of a very different experience in shopping, something that I rarely experience in my home city.
The first day, I simply visited the shops to reconnect with all the lovely people I have met before. There were a few simple pieces of clothing I had wanted to make, because I could not find them in the colors that I liked in Hong Kong, although the shopping was definitely not my main reason for visiting the tailors, they were.
The second day, I went back to the shops again to try out these simple pieces we collaborated in discussion to make. They did not turn out as we envisioned, so further changes were being made. I was to return again the next day. It was still very lovely, as there was time to make changes, and I expressed in detail how the customised item now feels, and how I would like it to feel eventually, without an enforcement on how it has to come out exactly.
The next morning while walking along the street, I ran into a lady Rose from one of the tailor shops on her motorbike. She stopped and said hello. Rose explained her tailor has made changes in the skirt that I ordered, but because the fabric that they had, was not as light as the sample that I showed her to copy the skirt from, it does not drape in the way the original skirt would. She suggested to either make it again in a different fabric, but without the color I liked, or to make something completely different, because she was not fully pleased with the outcome. The attentive care that Rose has offered me, was something that truly touched me. It was not a big sale in any means–one simple skirt. What Rose felt was more important, was not making the sale, but the relationship with a customer whom she treasured.
It is true that Rose’s shop may not be as sophisticated as the clothing or even tailor shops in Hong Kong that I could easily visit. But how Rose is conducting her business feels so true in both integrity and natural connection between human beings, that I know this is a shop and a friend, I will always feel inclined to return to. In fact, this feels so natural that, my following question is, how come most of the world do not conduct their business in such a naturally lovely and mutually honoring way?
If the product that is purchased becomes more important than the people involved in making the sale, shopping may just remain as shopping. But when both the seller and the customer are both aware that how the sale turns out is ultimately becomes because of them (relating as people), then the product becomes a bonus from a relationship. Shopping with love, is ultimately, nothing less than a relationship between the seller and the customer.
And here in Hoi An, whether shopping from a flower vendor, shoe vendor, clothes vendor, rickshaw service, dining service, beauty service, there is such a beautiful openness of returning the experience of shopping to one that is of love.