Wednesday, August 31, 2005

3108 - Blog Day 2005

Nir Ofir thought up of 3108/BlogDay so that the bloggers break the routine of reciprocal gratification. You know, Google ranks pages based on their rank, which is based on how many other pages link to them. The more pages link to PageX, the more important PageX looks to Google and gets higher on the Google results. Blogosphere was beginning to earn a little suspicious reputation for this "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" linking.

Ofir suggests an end to this by asking bloggers to step out of their clans and explore the wide, diverse blogosphere. On 3108 (August 31 - it reads like the word "blog" when written as 3108), all participating bloggers link to five new blogs that are different from their usual interests and points of view. And as for participating: everyone's invited!

Serendipity! The amazing variety of life revealed in one lovely accident! It took me to many blogs that I discovered in the past couple of days - these are the best five:

1. Order and Anarchy - by Syed Sibghatullah - tags: politics, society. An insightful blog about Pakistani politics, the local elections, the state of the society. It almost reads like an op-ed in a national daily. Has a clean, uncluttered look.
2. Closet Therapy - by Closet Therapy - tags: fashion, lifestyle, shopping. A colorful, spunky blog with product reviews, "lust" lists, and just plain fashion and shopping writeups.
3. Science Blog - by Ben Sullivan and "a team of science editors, writers, and enthusiasts" - tags: science. This is a meta-blog with "node" blogs sticking out in true scientific fashion. Topics range from brain & behavior to media and security & defense. Aha! Perhaps I should satisfy my passion for physics here and get writing on theories of time!
4. Shifting Light (Postcard from Provence) - by Jullian-Merrow Smith - tags: art, painting, nature, France. Am I proud of the gems I've discovered! I once chanced upon this site a long time ago, and today, I'll take Ofir advice and discover something beyond my usual sphere. With a different design, this blog features a painting a day from the blogger/painter's studio. You can also receive a painting a day in your inbox through an opt-in newsletter. My artsy gift for you!
5. Bakpakchik - by (tada!) bakpakchik - tags: personal. I discovered this one through a comment left on NEXT>. I found her storyboard blogging very amusing and unusual (though not unseen).

This is my truly random blog pick-basket. Am I delighted or what! :) BlogDay zindabad!

Email: nextbyramla AT

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Madam, you're an idiot

Wha...!? Whoa! Bhai saab! You think I'm an idiot!?
These are the kinds of thoughts that flashed through my mind - and face, I'm sure - as I found myself being duped by the sellers on a shopping trip.

I was shopping at this overpriced market in Karachi (it's close to home) to buy some essentials for a pilgrimage tour. It had been some time since I had been out shopping on my own, and I had to devise a way to get a bargain. Pretending to be a dumb customer is a strategy I employ to negotiate - it kind of alarms the seller: "could-be irritating girl, right ahead!" Usually, they give me a bargain just to get me out of the shop.

But this isn't something that really works. (I'm just checking different strategies.) In fact, I don't even have to try to act dumb - I walked in to several shops that seemed to be waiting for customers (in a minute we'll know why) - and the shopkeepers had this "in walks my prey" written all over. My thin veneer of the naive-university-girl-out-for-shopping quickly wore out as I tried to control my temper - and amusement.

At the cosmetics shop, I was presented with a thick-grained blush-on in a wornout plastic pack. It was from "UK." Now a quality blush (or eyeshadow, or even chocolate!) is fine-grained. You can't even feel the powder if you rub it between your fingers. I asked them if "UK" was in a bara [unregulated markets, often full of smuggled or counterfeit goods] in Peshawar? They gave me that "silly lady asking too many questions - why don't you just buy the damned thing and leave!" look. They lost the sales, and even in my confidence in what appeared to be perfectly legit Etude cosmetics.

Other Stories [more of the same]:

Repeat: Cotton-buds pack declaring it's a 100-bud pack, with only about 50 cotton buds. When I noted, the price was slashed from Rs. 25 to Rs. 20. Thank you!

Repeat: The salesgirl, pitching another small-time item: "And this is for.... [turns to the shopowner] How much should I say?" He doesn't look up and says: "Make it 50." I: "Er, this sticker says it's Rs. 30.50." Salesgirl: [Pause, blink.] "We also have to make profit." I: "Ok, make Rs. 5 profit." Salesgirl to shopowner: "Khalid bhai?? ['Brother Khalid...']" Khalid Bhai, doesn't look up but for a frustrated glance: "Ok, ok. [[Stupid customer!]]" Salesgirl: "Ok, 35." I: "Ok, 35." My heart: "30.50 has profit included." I, to heart: "Shut up, sir. I'm in a hurry here, but my only solace is to blog it!"

Repeat: I: [On being presented with a cheap-shot "Italian" blush pack when I asked for Etude, of which the shop bears huge posters. The printing on the box was coming off.] "This is not Italian." Khalid Bhai: "Madam, you said it so abruptly. Don't do this... [Pause] This is Italian." I: [blink, blink] "Let me say it politely, This is not Italian." Khalid Bhai [removes all cosmetics from the counter, sullen] "Ok."

What makes these people think they'll get business if they try to fool the now-extremely savvy customers? Their large shops with 0-2 customers at one time bore testimony to their anachronistic selling techniques.
P.S. Retailing needs an overhaul. At least, all items should have a price tag, at least the branded ones.
P.P.S. Pakistani firms need to focus on branding big time. They are losing sales by the unethical selling practices of the retailers who are pocketing the unreasonable amounts of profits.

Email: nextbyramla AT