REpost #2

Further digressions from Toby, rehashing thoughts lost in the ether once already:

Market economies:

Once before we travelled to a former Communist country, the Czech republic, and it was interesting to note the transitions required.
Now we are in a communist country, with “free market oriented” policy, and it is indeed interesting. We in north america take it for granted like drinkable water, but there’s a lot of underlying assumptions in our economy that are difficult lessons.

Supply and retailing:

In vietnam, you will be totally frustrated in finding an item for sale, only to find a dozen shops all together, all with pretty much the same items.

There’s a barber street, with 6 or even 20 barbers all set up under umbrellas with portable cases with their equipment. Everyone on town knows where to go for a haircut, and you are sure to find an available barber in a short time.

Same for hats, ceramic tile, grave markers, you name it. And in the right area, you will find nothing else. Walking down the street of tin knockers, fabricating amazing things, from roof vents, to doors, using the entire road for cutting larger sheets, was an auditory experience beyond belief. It was really neat, soldering, cutting shaping, metal work of every kind all up and down the street.

Same general idea goes for production. There is a stretch on Highway 5, the large divided highway from Halong bay to Hanoi where all the thick-soy-sauce-with-sticky-rice-sauce in the entire country is made. The stretch of road actually has been renamed after the seasoning (sorry name not here). So for maybe 2km the house numbers go from 1 Thuoc Duc to 340 or something Thuoc Duc; maybe 150 to 300 placeson both sides of the road all producing particular family recipes of this sauce. In containers from 1 oz. to what looks like 5 gallon jugs. There’s a couple of stores in Hanoi that send out a truck to stock this stuff, but most Vietnamese just wait until a friend, or friend of a friend, goes down this stretch of highway, and then they stock up.
There’s a wonderful sticky rice snack that is mixed with peanuts, and cooked up in a piece of green bamboo. THis must be eaten fresh. And the only place its available in the entire country is on a stretch of road on a back highway way off in a corner of the northeast. And when you go down that stretch, there’s 30-40 different thatched shelters with a charcoal fire making them. Both our guide and driver loved this snack, we liked it, but the idea of it being available anywhere else but the natural place it’s made seems to appear strange to them. No enterprising rice-bamboo maker has set up a stand in thickly settled Haiphong, or anything, and the idea is most definitely “foreign”.

Market efficiency:

Barb stopped into an art gallery and picked out a few of maybe a dozen different hand painted cards. Water colors, oils, embossed copper, all beautiful. She pulled out stack after stack of cards, picked a few and just heaped them up as she picked them out, returned the stack to the display case, handing the pile over to the friendly and warm clerk when she was done.

  1. We sorted the cards into the correct 12 piles according to artist, style and size.
  2. Each item was entered into a receipt book, detailed description, quantity.
  3. Barb got the receipt book and the quantities were checked.
  4. Barb was given the price, and she and the clerk agreed on the extended price of each.
  5. Barb piles everything into a bag.
  6. Each page of the receipt was tallied. Barb made the mistake of carrying over the total from page 1 to page
  7. Two separate sales are required.
  8. Payment made, change returned.
  9. Everything comes out of the bag and is sorted again into the correct 12 piles.
  10. The clerk goes into the display case and painstakingly finds one of each of the cards we had bought, making a pile with one of each. This is to determine which artist had their work sold, and would now be paid for their work.
  11. She neatly repacks the bag.

Elapsed time: nearly 20 minutes from when we actually started to pay.
Cards: avg.of around 50 cents for hand painted work.
Don’t think this will scale well for full market ecomomy.
All teething problems.