For a long time it has been a standing joke around here that I’m going to buy a bicycle “soon.” I’ve been saying it for over a year, and somehow never got around to it. Finally I decided to put words into action. I went out with some coworkers at lunchtime on Thursday and visited three different shops with used bikes, but didn’t find anything I liked. So yesterday I went over to Carrefour and joined the ranks of two-wheeled human-powered commuters.
I was looking at all the different models at the store, and a guy in a yellow jumpsuit who had been assembling the new arrivals came to help me. He told me the one I was looking at (which was one of the cheapest) was “not very strong” and that another one (only slightly more expensive) was better. He suggested I try it out, so I hopped on and rode around the store. It’s a big department store – think of a K-Mart or WalMart or the like – and it’s pretty busy on the weekends, so it was tricky navigating around shopping carts and customers.

I then pointed out another one, and he said it was a good one. I took it for a spin and decided it would work. He asked if I wanted a basket, which I did, so I went and picked out a basket, bell and lock (all sold separately). While he installed them on the bike, I took the bar code tags to the cashier to pay.

Like many retail transactions involving more than a small amount of money, this one turned out to be a little adventure. I had to wait for a single cashier to take care of several people in line at a leisurely pace. When I got to the front, the real trouble began. The bar codes wouldn’t scan. She unplugged the scan gun and reattached it, to much beeping and clicking. She tried scanning again. She opened up the printer and looked at what was on the receipt. She unplugged the gun again. More beeps and clicks. Finally she announced a total which was pretty close to the rough math I had done in my head. I handed over some cash. She entered my amount incorrectly into the computer and gave me too much change. By this point I was ready to move on, so I didn’t say anything and she moved on to the next person in line.

I looked at my receipt and noticed that the bike was listed (good), the bell was listed three times (all those beeps), the basket was on there twice (hmmm) and the lock not at all. The total was actually a little less than it should have been, but I was afraid that when the security guy checked the receipt at the exit, I would have a problem.

So I got back in line, waited some more, and showed her the six items on the receipt instead of the four I had. She looked at it and did some math, then went on a lot in Chinese. I only understood a little of it, but the basic drift was that it was close enough and I should just accept it. What the heck – I can always play dumb foreigner if there’s a problem.

So I made my way back to the bicycle department and the guy in the yellow jumpsuit was nowhere to be found. I was hoping he would be able to adjust the seat height for me. I hung around for a bit without finding anyone to help me, so I tossed the lock into the basket and wheeled my purchase out of the store.

At the exit, the guard gave my receipt a cursory glance and put his little red stamp on it.
It’s a Mantx City Cycle, made in Tianjin by Gamma Cycle Ltd. Only one speed. It’s pretty typical of what you see around town. I have no idea if Mantx is supposed to mean anything.

I hopped on and rode it home. Within a few minutes it started sprinkling, and I thought maybe it would have been a good idea to get the poncho at Carrefour while I was there. Luckily the sprinkle didn’t get worse, so I was only mildly soaked by the time I got home.

Anyway, the total bill came to ¥419.50, about $61 US, which saved me about a dollar over what they should have charged.


  1. Yeah I hate those big department stores where you have to go somewhere else to pay and always worry if the guy is still there by the time you get back from the mini excursion to the cash desk.

    Great set of wheels though. I went the easy route and bought an electric scooter which is SO much fun in summer and unusable in winter in Shanghai - brass monkey time.

  2. Electric scooter, AKA electric bicycle, known among pedal-powered riders and pedestrians alike as "silent killers"! I've had so many close calls with people on these things I can't even count them. You can't hear them coming up behind you, and most of their riders seem to be allergic to using their horns or beepers or bells or whatever they have.