“Come and listen even though you are not going to buy it!” 唔買都嚟聽吓 by Susi Law
“Come and listen even though you are not going to buy it!”
Since I was little, I have always passed by “san fo cheung” (Cantonese 散貨場, meaning shops or spaces on short-term leases that aim at fast sell-outs), which are particularly common in old districts. All residents would have heard this golden line from vendors – “Come on over and take a look even though you have no intention to buy!” Growing up in Yuen Long and working in Tokwawan made me notice various kinds of “san fo cheung”. The most impressive “san fo cheung” was the one at the street right opposite the office I used to work. It usually promoted only a single highlight product, the little shop was selling different highlighted product each day, for example, “convenient scent dispenser”, “electricity-saving multi-functional wok”, “light and sharp porcelain knife”, “easy-to-clean chopping board”, “extremely-absorbant towel”…etc.
One day after I had lunch, I found that there was a group of people actively engaging in a conversation and question-and-answer session with the vendor. I stopped in front of the shop curiously and wanted to figure out what made the big crowd stay there and watch. I kept listening to the vendor together with the group of middle-aged people and elders. I listened and laughed out from time to time. There wasn’t one moment that I felt bored, even though I had been standing still and listening for more than half an hour. The product promoted was a kind of old mobile phone. Its cost was a few hundred HK dollars. “Limited editions” were available, as the seller said, and four multi-functional gifts were guaranteed at purchase of the mobile phone. There was nothing special or attractive about the mobile phone itself, but the appeal was the vendor’s way of talking and his gestures. I believe it was an improvised performance with a very compact content, which was able to move people and create exciting emotions. Since this interesting experience, I have been paying attention to and collecting similar kinds of vendors’ talk.
Besides the “talk show” from these vendors, I noticed that there is another more passive form of the sound of selling, that is, the promotional sound recording being played in loop in some stores. Unfortunately those soundtracks that keep telling us how good the product is and how worthy it is to buy them repeats over and over again at the same spot. They end up being ignored. Customers only shop without listening, hence turning the promotional soundtracks into low-key background music (or noise in the environment).
I have been listening around for these two kinds of sounds of selling, and paying attention to how people react to them – I treat them as “free products” I get from those shops.
background story of commissioned project for The Library by soundpocket
written on 10/1/2014, Norway
羅偉珊 (Susi Law)
Two dollars each / 全場兩蚊
Nice-smelling stickers / 防蟲香氛貼
It’s New Year, it’s time to buy New Clothes! / 過新年著新衫
Multi-functional wok / 多功能鑊
Man Kee big discount / 文記大特價
Yeung Woo Tong Guilinggao /養和堂金牌龜苓膏
Again, two dollars each / 全部都係兩蚊都係兩蚊
SONY Mobile phone with 5 free gifts / SONY手提電話送埋五份贈品
An afternoon wandering around Yuen Long, listening without buying
The wok is free for you / 送埋隻鑊比你喇
Doesn’t matter how much it cost / 淨係問幾多錢冇用架喎
No more coughing / 止咳化痰
The cheapest in Hong Kong / 全港至平
The elderly must like it / 老人家實鍾意
Susi Law, independent artist/ curator/ researcher and active listener. She focuses on capturing, translating, articulating and circulating sensitivity. She currently lives and learns freely in Germany. She graduated from art acadamies in Norway and Hong Kong.