De­liv­er­ing the world to your doorstep


China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO - Con­tact the writer at erik_nils­son@ chi­

Tip-tap. Tick-tock. Knock­knock.

That’s how we shop.

A few taps on my phone, a short wait and the goods ar­rive.

I’ve hardly set foot in a phys­i­cal store since I set up my phone to en­able me to make use of China’s vast e-com­merce of­fer­ings.

I’ve kept a tally and dis­cov­ered I av­er­age around seven de­liv­er­ies on days I don’t leave the house.

Three meals, gro­ceries for later, de­ter­gent, ear­phones, wa­ter, di­a­pers, tow­els, sweaters — in­deed, all these ne­ces­si­ties come to my door on the back of a bike as fast as the de­liv­ery­man can bring them.

That’s not to men­tion such, nov­el­ties I guess you could call them, as beer mugs adorned with Asian dragons that flash with mul­ti­color lights, geodes for my daugh­ter to break open and Star Wars-themed socks for my su­per­fan wife.

Ba­sic West­ern food and treats like cof­fee and cheese were dif­fi­cult to find when I first ar­rived in China 12 years ago. Ac­quir­ing them meant trav­el­ing to the hand­ful of places across the city, such as the Friend­ship Store, that sold such goods and pay­ing ex­or­bi­tant prices.

Fast for­ward to to­day — it’s still dif­fi­cult to find such items as sour­dough, salsa verde and French onion sea­son­ing in any phys­i­cal stores I’m aware of. (Other for­eign fare, such as pret­zels, salami and spaghetti sauce are now rel­a­tively easy to get at the hand­ful shops around the city that stock im­ported foods.)

But vir­tu­ally any food­stuff from any cor­ner of the globe is eas­ily pur­chased on Taobao — and af­ford­able.

Of course, we mostly eat Chi­nese sta­ples, which are even cheaper and eas­ier to find on shop­ping apps, and typ­i­cally ar­rive within about 40 min­utes. (Taobao takes days.)

I haven’t vis­ited a su­per­mar­ket in months. Even though there’s one across the street from my apart­ment, a trip takes about an hour or so — longer if I have to tow the kids along.

Now, I can shop in under a minute, leav­ing more time to play with my chil­dren, rather than drag — and some­times chase — them through a shop­ping com­plex.

I’ve ab­so­lutely de­tested shop­ping all my life. I used to try to buy all the clothes I’d need for a few years in one trip to get it over with.

But I’ve come to adore on­line shop­ping in China. That’s partly be­cause of the nov­elty of the strange and sur­pris­ing things you can find.

For in­stance, a hu­man ham­ster wheel, an an­i­ma­tronic danc­ing cave­man, ba­con-shaped ear­rings, cof­fee mugs that make it look like you have a pig nose when you drink from them — you name it.

Search “scor­pi­ons”, and up pop pages sell­ing scor­pi­ons for pets, scor­pi­ons for snacks and al­bums by the Ger­man metal band, Scor­pi­ons.

My econ­o­mist friend re­cently pur­chased a money gun from Taobao. That is, a gun that blasts bills when you pull the trig­ger.

We joked this may soon prove one of few uses for phys­i­cal ban­knotes in China’s in­creas­ingly cash­less and e-com­merce-driven land­scape.

Erik Nils­son Sec­ond Thoughts

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