My BFF Went to Beijing and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt


As we continue to prepare for the grand opening of the travel agency we are learning many new things about big China. For example, in Chinese mythology, to travel “West” is to go to heaven. Could that be considered an analogy to the quest for the American Dream?


Or what about the realities of running a small (very small) business in China. Take retail stores for example. You need to sell a product. Yes, we are selling package tours at our store but if you can’t afford the tour (Paglen’s starts at $6k USD due to extreme outfitting, but no worries Wildman Brill’s is only $20 bucks) we’d hate to see you go home with existential angst. So our solution is to offer the “souvenir”–a remembrance of things past, even if it isn’t YOUR past. Through this small token, all your associations of a particular place (let’s say Hollywood for example) beginning with early childhood memories (probably from watching too much TV) up to the present moment (probably from other people describing their experiences living there) are conjoined with the actual, lived experience of you BUYING the souvenir. In that precious moment, past, present and future all collide and the souvenir (in this case our “Majesty of Parking Lots” Hollywood tour cell phone cover) is activated, becoming a powerful symbol of what you IMAGINE the place to be based on social constructions intertwined with the memories and associations of the place you were actually at when you purchased the souvenir such as who was with you, what the weather was like, were you hungry, yadda, yadda.


But let’s get back to the business aspect of running a small business such as a travel agency in an extremely touristy neighborhood in Beijing such as the hutong directly between the drum and bell towers–second most visited hot spot after the Tiananmen/Forbidden City package tour! To maintain a competitive business and keep the money rolling in, especially if you’re not having a good week selling tours, you need some chatchkas. Everyone loves a chatchka even if only for a few minutes and then they throw it out (remember Cracker Jacks?). And what better souvenir for a travel agency, than a snow globe! Yet if we go back to our business model, or rather a business model, a tiny store such as ours can only handle at most up to 50 items. And even if they sold like hot cakes, we probably wouldn’t sell 2000-3000 in a month. Well, in order to get custom snow globes manufactured in a factory in Fujian Province or Shenzhen you need to order 2000-3000 pieces, and that’s just for one design. So far we have 4 package tours, that’s almost 12,000 pieces!

 cell phone cover

Instead we have opted for the custom cell phone covers and portable mini fans (it’s hot in Beijing). It’s simple and easy. Just purchase as many items as you need at the neighborhood market (kind of like a Shanzhai Walmart) and customize them with your own personal stickers. We love them and we think you’ll love them too! We’re still working on the snow globe idea and have found some clear plastic containers that we might be able to get for under 500 pieces, but in the mean time we feel we are offering a quality product.