Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, September 09, 2005

He caught me coming out of the coffee bar this morning. I first met him the other day. He was recruiting for a company that needs native English voices. I told him I was busy, but he persisted, "Only thirty minutes. Only thirty minutes." For that I was to be paid 100 RMB. I finally told him I would call him the next day, but somehow I got busy and forgot about it.

This morning, I almost ran into him, "OK, where do we go." He took me to a place around the corner, where I was ushered into a room with a microphone and sound system. This was a cell phone company that needed some native English pronunciations. The lady sat me down and asked me to begin by stating my name. Then she told me to state my age.

She said, "Say 38."

"But I'm not 38."

"OK, then say 48."

I was thinking, "I don't believe this. This lady is trying to bargain with me about my age!"

Now, you can't live in China very long without doing some bargaining, unless you really like being taken advantage of. I have to bargain all the time when I go to the used book store. Almost any major purchase involves a bargain. I take friends with me when I can, but sometimes I don't have that choice. So I have tried to learn how to bargain as well as I can. The key to it is to find some way to learn the value of the item. But bargaining about my age? No. That's where I draw the line.

I assume the issue is that they have been told to recruit people between certain ages, and since I did not meet this criteria, they wanted me to lie. I told the lady I was not going to do that, so she told me to go ahead. We completed the session a half-hour later, and she took me out to sign my name and get paid. Her boss came in and she told him that I had put down my real age. He then asked her what I had said when I was in the sound room. She informed him, with some measure of concern, that I had told the truth. Then she wanted to know if she should still pay me. I think they assumed that I could not understand them, which wasn't far from the truth. But I was thinking, "Oh, this is good. If they don't pay me, we're going to have a really interesting conversation." If she had told me at the outset that they could not use me if I insisted on being honest, I would have said goodbye and left. But she didn't. She put me through the whole process. So they were obligated to pay me. I think the boss realized this point, because he told her to go ahead and give me the money.

I left politely, but with a bad feeling about the whole thing. It isn't just that I was being asked to say something that wasn't true. It is the fact that I intensely dislike being sold something that is not, in fact, what it is presented as. If you want to sell me something used, don't wrap it in a neat package and pretend it's new. Tell me it is used, and then we can argue about the price. I hate having to guess whether the item or service I am being sold is genuine. And I just wasn't going to be part of helping these guys do just that to whomever their client was. I have no idea how they are going to edit that part of the track where I state my age, or if they will be able to convince whomever that my voice should be accepted. I am afraid they may have wasted 100 RMB. Liars. They deserve it.

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