SEOUL, South Korea — “Have you heard of Bakomon?” I asked George, who was sitting next to me, on the tour bus. “Pokemon?” he replied. “No BAKomon,” I said while laughing. He shakes his head slowly and stares at me with the same blank look he always had on his face since the first day I met him at Dallas Fort Worth Airport. “You mean Bakugan?” a girl’s voice announced from behind my seat. “Yes! Bakugan!” I quickly answered. I can’t remember her name, but she was one of the 75 students who participated in the South Korea scholarship program with me. “I used to work at a toy store,” she told me. “I remembered the kids were obsessed with those things.” I hurriedly gave her my attention and started to tell her about what I saw at one of Seoul’s buzzing shopping district the day before. I wanted to know her advice.
It was around night-time when I went shopping at Myeongdong with two friends, and we came across a toy stand. There were two guys working the cart, one older gentleman, maybe in his late 40s, and a younger male, probably in his early 30s. There were a variety of anime, action figures, little knickknacks, and I’m guessing a few novelty items. The first thing that caught my eyes though was a clear, plastic container, the shape and size of a small lunch box with a Bakugan image on top. It reminded me of my youngest brother Toan. I remembered he played with these Bukugan toys he had collected from McDonalds.
I picked up the box and examined it. There were circular, plastic balls the size of a big playing marble in numerous color designs evenly spaced out inside. These where the same Bakugan toys he had insistently wanted to buy when we went to Wal-mart together a few months ago. Even though it was his money, I kept telling him no because I thought it was a waste of money. Toan isn’t the bratty type nor is he a bad kid. He just always says okay in a down voice and becomes sad when he can’t have the few things he wants. I just feel so shitty on the inside every time I see him like that, so of course I let him buy it.
I held the box in the air and asked the older guy, “How much?” He answered with an accent “50,000krw,” which is a little less than $50 in America. My first facial reaction was what the fuck?! Are you kidding me?! I thought he must have meant 15,000krw or $15, so I said how many zeros while I drew round circles on my palm with my finger indicting what I wanted to know. He thought for a second and raised up four fingers. I looked at him in disbelief and said this (shit) is cheaper in America! One of my female friends shook her head and said in a small voice “no don’t buy it.” She had this unwelcoming look on her face as if telling me you’re getting ripped off. Later, after we left, I knew this was exactly what she was thinking when she told me, “$50 for some plastic? It’s not worth it.”
I was thinking about that toy box on the bus the next day, and I recalled that my little bro had bought one of those circular toy things for around $7. This Bakugan toy box had 14 of those things, which means 14 times 7 equals a little less than $100 bucks.
“So, do you think I should buy it?” I finally asked her for reassurance on the bus. She looked to the side to think of an answer and then replied, “Yeah, that’s a reasonable price, I would think.”
I continued to contemplate whether or not I should buy it for my little bro. Later that week on the Friday before I left Seoul. One of the scheduled events we had to attend was at Myeongdong, so I decided I was going to stay there to do a little more shopping and go back and ask for the price again. I saw the same stand and the same guys, and I asked the older guy again how much was the box. He gave me the same answer. I placed the box down and decided I’ll do a little shopping and come back for it later.
A few hours gone by, I finally came back but this time I pulled the younger guy over, while the older guy was distracted helping someone else, and I pointed to the Bakugan toy box and said, “Hey, $40,000 for that box I’ll take it right now,” while raising four fingers in the air. He kinda smiled at me a little, grabbed his calculator and punched in $45,000. I gave my hand a slight wave as if gesturing whatever I’m not interested in any number you’re punching, and I raised up four fingers again and said, “$40,000 I’ll take it right now and go home.” He kinda smirked at me again and without any refutation, he went over to grab the box and then a bag and placed it inside for me.
Yes! I thought as I pulled out $40,000 and handed it over to him. Just to make the exchange a little more lively, I started to make conversations and asked him if he was Korean because I thought he looked Japanese, and I also heard his coworker speak Japanese. He said no and asked me where I was from in Korean. I said I came from America, but I’m Vietnamese. He looked surprised, but we eventually made the exchange and that was the last thing I bought in Seoul.
Whether I got a good bargain or not I still saved 1o bucks, so yay lol. When I got back into the U.S. I called my lil bro and told him I got him a toy, and I asked him how much he thought it was. “Uh $25,” he guessed. “It was actually $50, but I told the guy I’ll take it for $40 and he sold it to me,” I replied. He then said with surprised emotions in his little 11-year-old voice, “Whaat? yu cann doo that?” I said, “Yes. It’s called bargaining.” I could hear it in his voice he was happy I bought him a toy, but he’s the type that doesn’t show his feelings regardless if he’s sad or happy because apparently to him that meant I got the best of him. Anywho, he just knows I bought him some kind of toy. He doesn’t know it’s the Bakugan thing he had insistently wanted, so I can’t wait to see the look on his face when I present it to him!