I need slippers. Across Asia, it's culturally proper to take off your shoes and put on slippers before entering someone's home. In China, it's even more important because for some reason, the street is particularly dirty. It's still a developing country in many ways, so I expected parts to be dirty. But, despite the many people sweeping streets and mopping hallway floors, there is a permanent layer of grime on every horizontal surface. Thus, I try to take off my shoes even as I enter my own apartment. However, since it's still the middle of winter, I also needed to get a pair of warm slippers. It's easy to find a cheap pair of slippers from any stall on the street. But they are typically made for tourists and not very warm. My feet are worth spending some cash, so I went to the department store in my local mall (conveniently right above Carrefour).
Let me describe it so you can get a better picture of it. It's seven stories high and yet never has any more than 5 customers on each floor (which says something about me, since I went in there to buy something). It averages a staff to customer ratio of 3:1 on any given floor. Strangely, each department in the department store is actually operated almost entirely independently of the others. Imagine the Polo section in your local Macy's not being run by the same company as the Tommy Hilfiger section, and you'll get the idea. I asked one clerk who was selling wool socks where I could find slippers. She simply said, "I don't sell slippers." I said, "I know that, where can I get some?" Her response was, "I don't know, I don't sell them. Maybe somebody else here does." I finally found slippers, and even though the biggest size was still one size smaller than my feet (I only wear a size 10 ½ in the US, but apparently, those are giant feet over here), I still bought them. I was desperate, having not seen any insulated slippers so far, and they were also half the price of ones I had seen in a US department store.
In addition to being arranged independently, the department store's departments also aren’t allowed to take payments. Instead, they write up a receipt, and you have to walk to the nearest cashier (sometimes located outside the actual department store) settle the bill there, get a receipt for your payment, bring it back to the clerk who sold you your goods, and then pick up your stuff. In any case, long story short, I paid 90 RMB for comfortable slippers.
Since the department store is right above Carrefour, I figured I’d pop down to get some food and other odds and ends. I couldn’t help but look for slippers there as well. I am kicking myself now because of course I found much cheaper slippers there; one pair actually fits my extra-large feet. They were so cheap, I bought two pairs. One for me, and one for any guests that might come over. They were 20 RMB and 13 RMB respectively. Moral of the story: Go to Carrefour first. Go to other places only if Carrefour doesn’t have what you need, because it’s likely to be more expensive and a lot more difficult to purchase anyplace else.