One of the best football teams in the world were in Shanghai last night to play against local team Shanghai Shenhua, who aren’t actually very good even by China’s low standards. But it was a rare chance to see a good side play so I went along and ended up getting second row VIP seats from a “huang niu” which is what they call scalpers / ticket touts in China.
During half time I was stunned to find there were no drink or food stands at all, anywhere in the stadium. Occasionally there were huge groups of people crowding round an unofficial vendor selling bottles of Coke and Minute Maid that they must somehow have bribed someone to get them in.
Returning to my seat for the second half, I was passing someone who at the exact moment I was passing, suddenly turned round. His head hit mine and his glasses fell to the ground as one of the two lenses smashed in to pieces.
An unfortunate accident, but this guy seemed to think I was responsible and immediately asked what I intended to do. I explained it was him who bumped me, so I did not see any reason to compensate him. He took great offense to this and refused to let me continue on to my seat without paying for the damage.
Sadly this is all to common in China. A friend of mine was scammed for over 100,000 RMB because a lady he hit while on his bike milked the situation as much as possible, producing one fake hospital bill after another along with supporting evidence from doctors.
I wanted to get back to the game so I said we could discuss it after the match. He didn’t want to let me go but I walked off anyway. But sure enough, after the match, he was waiting for me to continue the “negotiations”. I explained again this was an accident but I certainly was not the cause. He eventually said there was no option but to let the police decide.
He found a policeman in the stadium who pointed us in the direction of a small police station that was just by the stadium and he led the way as I followed, although he kept a close eye on me to ensure I didn’t try to make a run for it.
We had to wait for what seemed like an eternity at the police station although in reality it was probably around 45 minutes. By that time, I was almost ready to go against my principles and just pay him some money to avoid wasting more time. But I kept telling myself to wait a bit longer, knowing that having a policeman oversee the discussion would work in my favour as the guy with the glasses would be hesitant to be too unreasonable.
Finally a policeman came out and my 3 eyed friend started to explain how I had ruined his glasses. I remained completely silent and let him finish his hard luck story. I waited till the policeman asked me for my version and I explained I was walking to my seat, the guy was standing up and suddenly turned just as I was passing. Somehow are heads bumped and his glasses fell to the floor. I could not see how that was my fault. At worst it was both our faults.
The policeman then asked the guy the burning question – how much did he pay for the glasses. 80 US dollars he replied. Not RMB, US dollars. You see, he’d bought them in America where for just a little bit more he could have got himself a rifle!
So how much did he estimate the value of the lenses? He said around 200 RMB which is 31 dollars. A bit of a stretch I thought, but I’ll go along with that. You see, I had a strategy. I said to the policeman that I felt 200 RMB was a fair assessment and since at most I was 50% responsible, I am willing to pay exactly half that amount so the guy can buy himself a new lens.
The guy then started saying he would need to go back to the US to get the new lens. The policeman was now getting somewhat irritated by this guy and asked why. Well, apparently the warranty would be invalid if he got a new lens locally. Luckily the policeman was having none of this nonsense. He said that’s your own problem – just take the 100 RMB and be on your way.
He was very unhappy with the way the deal had gone down, but he had no choice. I resisted the temptation to pull out the stack of 100 RMB notes I had in my pocket and instead just reached in and pulled out a single 100 RMB note which I handed to the guy.
And that was that. Over an hour of my life completely wasted, not to mention the 100 RMB which I probably should not have had to pay.
Fortunately, he didn’t ask me to refund him half his ticket cost. I imagine he had to watch the whole thing with just one eye!