Buying a mattress–so what’s the big deal? You get in your car, go to the mattress warehouse, lay on a few beds, and pick one. Pay a bit extra for delivery, and they show up at your house in the next day or so with a truck and bring it in.
Well, there are few differences over here…First you have to find a friend who speaks the language and is willing to go to the “furniture market.” I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but it was on Furniture Street (there is also a Kitchen Street and Computer Street), which houses several multistory fairground-sized buildings side by side on both sides of the street for a few blocks. It is sort of organized like a mega flea market or antique mall, with each “cubicle” owned separately. So you climb a few flights of stairs and walk through endless sections of couches and dining room sets, and finally get to the bedroom and mattress section. When they see a group of 3 foreigners coming plus a 20 month blond little boy, in addition to the usual crowd wanting to play with, dote on and ask a bunch of questions about DiDi (“Little Brother”), you’re bombarded by a ton of sales people all insisting that their mattress is the best. The kicker is when you show a serious interest in a mattress that isn’t just a piece of plywood covered with cloth (like the one that came with our apartment). The sales ladies get the muscled men to put 3 or 4 of them on the floor, they take their high heeled shoes off, and all start jumping barefoot on the mattresses as high as they can to show just how springy it is. It would be the best mattress commercial-much better than the monotone guy we always heard on the radio back in the US boasting his wares. After some haggling, threats that they will not give us the discount if we look at any other competitor’s wares, and we call a couple of people to see what they paid for their mattresses, we settle on a price.
Then the delivery team rep, another lady, says that delivery will cost 60 kwai. OK, great, we just want to look around for a bathtub (we saw some nice wooden ones with leather headrests, but not much of the white ceramic variety), and a kitchen storage unit (nonexistent–unless we order pink or red formica cabinets-we didn’t do it). The delivery lady traipses through 2 or 3 buildings with us, and then shows us the delivery van. Well, suddenly it will cost us 60 kwai to have the mattress delivered, but the 20 young able bodied men loitering waiting for work claim they will charge 500 kwai to deliver it to the 14th floor, since the thing won’t fit in the elevator. Another haggle, a desperate phone call to our friend’s husband, and we agree on a new and increased delivery fee of 200 that includes the hike up the stairs. Plus we get to squeeze ourselves (3 adults and DiDi) into the cab of the truck along with the driver and two assistants (no extra charge–at least we save a few kwai on the taxi fare…).