In the 10 years I’ve lived in Bangkok, one thing I have learned when shopping in Thailand is never to trust a Thai salesperson when they tell you they don’t stock something. In fact, I’ve heard “Mai mee” (“Don’t have”) more times than I can count, only to find the exact thing I was looking for not two minutes later. For some bizarre reason, many Thai salespeople will tell you “We don’t have that” or “We don’t sell that” when you know darn well they do. So…..why is this?
Darned if I know.
I can’t figure out if the Thai salesperson in question genuinely doesn’t think they stock the item, if they don’t want to deal with a farang (westerner) because they’re afraid they won’t understand them, whether they don’t actually want to do any work except sit and look pretty, or if they’ve been told by someone at the store that they don’t sell that particular product and they believe them? In 10 years, I still can’t figure it out. But it happens. A lot.
Case in point, on Thursday I ran into Watson’s drug store in Bangkok to pick up contact lens solution. I spent about a minute looking, but was in a rush, so asked one of the sales assistants in Thai where the contact lens solution was. I was immediately told, “We don’t have any. You can buy it at Lotus”.
Knowing full well they always have contact lens solution, I thanked her politely and went back to looking myself. Not a minute later, I found two entire shelves of contact lens solution standing right next to the cash register and just feet away from where the sales assistant stood. You don’t sell it? Seriously?
On the other hand, sometimes when shopping in Thailand, if a Thai salesperson does tell you they sell something they will immediately walk right to it. Unlike in the west where I’ve sometimes spent longer with a sales assistant looking for a product they know they sell than I would have spent searching for it myself. Now these Thai sales assistants, I love.
But………the, what I call, the “Mai mee sales assistants” really will drive you nuts.
My advice? When shopping in Thailand for any type of product, spend at least five minutes looking for the item yourself before asking a Thai sales assistant if they sell it. And then look again if they tell you they don’t.
Seventy five percent of the time, I guarantee you will eventually find it.