Thursday, June 15, 2006

Plasma TVs from the Back of a (floating) Lorry

I invited Faysel to lunch at The Lodge. Faysel doesn't normally get up in time for lunch, but on the day in question, he'd called me at the unspeakably early hour of 11:00 a.m. to say he was in Dubai on business. He reluctantly agreed to join me, since I took him to The Lodge one evening, and the kitchen was closed.

The Lodge is a complex of about three restaurants (they way they're laid out, it's kind of hard to count) and venues for music, dancing, and, for this month, World Cup Football. One restaurant, Cheers, is only open for lunch from noon until 3:30 p.m., then the kitchen closes. A few people, at Cheers for the music or football, ask to dine at night, but the food is ordered from one of the other restaurants in the complex. In my opinion, the best value on food at The Lodge is the Cheers lunch, where I dine regularly, but Faysel wasn't convinced. At 3:30 p.m., he still hadn't showed up, so I called to say we couldn't go The Lodge. He was relieved, and said he was at his favourite watering hole, The Dulf Hotel. So I dragged myself to The Dulf and joined him.

Faysel said he'd learned of a shipload of Plasma and LCD TVs that had been pirated. The pirate ship (he said) was at a Dubai port, and they were trying to sell the TVs for a few cents on the dollar. He invited me to join him in going aboard the pirate ship and inspecting the merchandise. Since I've never been on a pirate ship, I thought it would be interesting to see all the customary accoutrements of a pirate ship: cutlasses, eye patches, parrots, and, of course, 'The Plank.'

Faysel said he'd already lined up buyers willing to pay US$900 for the TVs, and thought he could buy these TVs for about US$500 or less directly off the pirate ship.

So, at 4:00 p.m., we went to the port. We needed passes to get in, but Ali, a friend of Faysel, bought us two passes, and then he and his brother led us to a small building.

Inside the building was a perfectly legitimate Korean shipping company that could bring in as many Korean TVs, computer monitors, washing machines, and a few other items as we wanted. The price of the TVs was US$1,547. Plus the 5% charge if we wanted to bring them into the UAE and sell them here. Faysel was not impressed, and showed it. To be polite, I asked the Korean shipper a few questions and tried to appear as if I were a serious distributor interested in his product. Faysal couldn't wait to get away.

'That Korean was no salesman. He didn't even know who his customer was. He thought you wanted to buy the TVs.'

I've seen factories selling in Dubai before, at GITEX and at Dragon City. The factory representatives are seldom high-pressure salesmen: they sit, patiently waiting for customers who want to purchase factory direct. This is not upmarket retail selling.

I got a very nice cup of tea out of the deal, but Faysel felt like he'd wasted the better part of an afternoon. He doesn't know anyone who will pay him more than US$1,000 for the TVs.

As my friend Robert used to say, 'Somedays chicken, somedays feathers.'

So it was 'Feathers for Faysel' day.


Blogger Harsha said...

did you manage to have lunch that day ?

1:00 pm  
Blogger Dubai@Random said...

It was after 6:00 p.m. before we left the 'pirate ship.' So I'd call the meal I finally had supper, rather than lunch.

Thanks for asking.

12:51 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home