Wednesday 3 October 2007

Rubbed up the wrong way

Now this is one of my bug bears.

Maybe it's just foreign to us Westeners, but the letter in Monday's Cairns Post touched a nerve with a lot of locals, and, it seems, visitors alike.

Gotta admit, I'm not a regular visitor to the Night Markets, and this is due in part to all the throngs of meandering visitors that are on a different timescale than us residents.

It's why the escalators at Cairns Central are the second worse visitor attraction in the Far North. Anyway, I digress, as any wandering Ronnie Corbett joke teller would do.

The issue in Colin's letter that I take on board is their selling technique.

Hawking is a particularly confrontational style of selling. The so-called 'Chinese massages' is a series of sprawling businesses that occupy the markets and employ an army of people to lure and coax customers in.

This style of selling is common place in Asia to visitors. Certainly Honkers. The technique is very forward, abrupt and often unrelenting. If you walk within 20 meters of eyesight, you'll get hounded. A simple 'No Thanks' will not get the desired response.

It's a rather aggressive style and hardly something that anyone would enjoy when they are up here for a relaxing holiday, and a nice wander though these colourful markets.

Last evening I chatted to John and Elaine, who were visiting Cairns from Melbourne. They were waiting for their daughter who was purchasing a $3 t-shirt in the store right opposite the seemingly endless line up of massage practitioners.

They told me how they'd just been 'accosted' by no less than four different people offering a foot / back rub etc.

"It makes you feel rather uncomfortable, doesn't it? After all this you feel like giving in," said Elaine. "It's a really hard sell, when all we came out for was a quiet wander after dinner on the Esplanade."

I recall some time ago walking the suit-making streets of Hong Kong, and they would literately chase you down the street, offering you the best deal under the sun.

The subject of street hawking has been debated by Cairns City Council some time ago, and was not at all something that was welcomed. I can't find the actual discussion, maybe it was informal. In a positive retort, the Mayor said that this behaviour was inappropriate and wouldn't be tolerated. It was in response to a number of backpackers that were then employed on the CBD streets to tout and hawk passersby with a view to get them to dine at their establishment. This very confrontational approach is something that really isn't an Aussie (or Kiwi) way of doing business.

I recall, that in Aplin Street, around seven years ago, businesses started to claim space with chairs and tables along the side of the footpath, making a narrow lane between the restaurant and the outside diners. They'd position 'guards' on either end and every walker was targeted with a myriad of 'offers'.

One evening I encountered this situation. I felt overwhelmed, as on previous occasions I simply said no thanks and made gestures that indicated politely that I wasn't interested. However, this practice wasn't that effective. They keep pushing the menu towards you in a hope that you will relent.

So this time, I simply ignored them. Totally. You know when you "blank' someone! I believed it would send a signal that I wasn't at all interested - at all. After all, I was merely passing along a public walkway onto my destination. This young girl saw that I was not interested and that I didn't even acknowledge her, she hurled abuse at my back as a wandered off! "Rude bugger!" she squawked.

I bet there's many who have had a similar experience.

How many times have you walked into a mobile phone store, just across the boundary of their store with the outside world, and their trained hound dogs are all over you with questions? Try it, they're infamous for it.

Various office buildings around town actively police and despise hawking, as door-to-door sales people aimlessly wander the streets with their wares.

I defend the right for businesses to carry out different marketing techniques, however when it directly and abruptly impinges on the peace of others, then it goes to far.

These 'massage' folk, need to change their practices in a way that gains them some respect, along with the many other stores that make up the Night Markets.

They are simply rubbing us up the wrong way.


Anonymous said...

I go into the night markets at least once a week.. I would have no idea what stalls, new or old are neighbours to the massage businesses in there, as I do not talk down those isles. The way these people do business is no what I want to be confronted with. The biggest problem is, you get accosted by the first one, and the staff from the next couple see you have rejected this person, so they then try harder. The same can be said with the asian food stalls in the night markets as well. I have had them hassle me, after Ihave finished eating my meal, and am taking my rubbish to the bin. the people can see I have already eaten, but they still approach you.

Anonymous said...

I must say I agree this is most annoying I only go to the
Night Markets when I have visitors but find the approach's outside the massage area lately just too much

Anonymous said...

The massage places are only one part of the mess that is become of the Night Markets. It would be my guess that a proper immigration department raid would clear out many of these shops - it is well known on the Esplanade that many mainland Chinese are here on 'student visas" thare are rarely checked.

How about the mountains of rotting food from the "chinese restaurants" in the Food Court (almost all owned by the same Korean family, btw) or the 30-40 bicycles of these workers chained up to trees, poles, signs and everywhere else they can figure (this because the Night Markets never put in the development permit required bicycle racks).

I'm glad we have a multi racial country. That doesn't mean I want Australian values turned into Shanghai or Bangkok where rules are non-existant.

Anonymous said...

I visited the Night Markets for the first time since around 1995, last week.
I found them so confronting and unnerving that I won't be going back.
In a way they represent what Cairns has become...a hard-sell, over-priced, slick and sleazy, open slather economy where greed is God.

Anonymous said...

This story is typical of the kind of disruptive business that the chinese are bringing to Cairns. See the stories about the chinese tourist frauds at the Gold Coast? It's happening here too, right under our noses. Chinese business practices are among the most ruthless in the world which is why $15 massages are turning into $150 "therapy sessions".

And notice the dozens of prostitution ads that now jam the Cairns Post. Most if not all are chinese.

Kevin Andrews should consider shutting down chinese migration along with the somalis.