Friday, August 1, 2014

Different China Stories for Walmarts in Zhanjiang and Changde

Several months ago in Zhanjiang's Chikan district I saw a Walmart in a shopping center next to the Nanqiao River.

Walmart in Chikan, Zhangjiang, Guangdong

Partly because Walmart has over 350 Supercenters in China and last year announced plans to "open 110 new stores in China between 2014 and 2016", I didn't find it remarkable. I had already seen a number of Walmarts in other Chinese cities.

What was remarkable, though, was that only about 300 meters (about 1000 feet) away I saw another Walmart.

Another Walmart in Chikan, Zhangjiang, Guangdong

I had never before seen two Walmarts so close to each other. The second store appeared newer and was clearly more spacious, although they both seemed to sell the same breadth of goods. Employees at both locations said they were not aware of any plans to close either store and the two locations were needed given customer demand.

These two Walmarts stand in contrast to another Walmart I saw more recently in a city over 15 hours away by car to the north – Changde.

Walmart in Changde, Hunan

The store was remarkable to me for a different reason. It was the first Walmart I have seen in China which had been closed down.

flowers for sale in front of a closed entrance for a Walmart
A closed entrance now serves as the backdrop for a flower stall.

The store is also remarkable because, as reported by China Labour Bulletin, in June a local arbitration committee:
formally rejected a compensation claim by Walmart employees who were laid off by the company following a store closure in March. The local authorities meanwhile have been putting intense pressure on the workers to accept an unofficial settlement offer from Walmart of an additional 3,000 yuan [US $485] each.
As Xinhua reported in July, the local authorities weren't entirely successful:
Since then, 63 workers have signed an agreement to accept a settlement from Walmart of 3,000 yuan (488 U.S. dollars) each in addition to the compensation package to end the dispute.

The remaining six workers were not satisfied with the arbitration and insisted on filing lawsuits.

"We don't feel respected in the whole process," said Huang Xingguo, head of the store's trade union.

"Even though they (other workers) accepted the settlement, they are forced by living pressures, not by their will," he said.

At present, the trade union of the store and four former employees have sued the Walmart store in separate lawsuits, and the five suits have been accepted by the Wuling District people's court, he said.
Whatever the results of the lawsuits may be, the closed store is part of Walmart's restructuring for its overall growth in China. As the stores in Zhanjiang, planned new stores, and the choice for Walmart's new CEO—the previous head of Walmart China—better reflect, Walmart still has big hopes for the Chinese market.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

SpongeBob SquarePants Street Food in Changde

During my brief time in Changde, Hunan province, not only did I notice a hot pot restaurant with golden arches similar to the McDonald's logo, but I also saw a mobile food stall with another touch of American culture.

motorized tricycle food cart with a SpongeBob SquarePants umbrella

The umbrella promoted a Chinese brand of milk products for children — Mengniu's "Weilaixing" (未来星). I didn't ask how the umbrella made its way there, and such seeming mismatches are not a rare sight in China. Given the sole item being sold, I was mostly just attracted to the idea of SpongeBob SquarePants stinky tofu.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Hot Pot Restaurant in China with the Golden Arches

In Changde, Hunan province, I was not surprised to see a sign with the well-known logo of a American fast food restaurant chain.

I was also not surprised that a busy McDonald's could be found next to the sign.

I was a bit surprised, though, to see only a short walk away a similar looking logo on a sign for the restaurant Moguofang (魔锅坊).

The restaurant, located in an underground shopping center, also sported the familiar-looking logo on its storefront sign.

Moguofang's golden arches aren't exactly the same as the Golden Arches, but I doubt most people would be aware of any difference without directly comparing them. At least the apparently inspired-by-McDonald's restaurant, Wichael Alone, that I previously saw on a trip to Wuzhou had flipped the arches. The Moguofang example reminds me more of a restaurant in Shanghai with a logo similar to the one for Google+.

Moguofang is a restaurant chain and the questionable logo doesn't appear in any photos I have found online of its locations in cities such as Changsha and Shanghai. The logo also doesn't appear on the website for Moguofang. So it is possible the logo is just a local inspiration.

Finally, no, you can't by a Big Mac at Moguofang. But if you want a spicy hot pot, then you are in luck. Try asking for a McHotpot.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Google+ and g+ The Urban Harvest in China

Google+, like most of Google's other online services, remains blocked in China.

This is the secondary logo for Google+:

secondary logo for Google+

g+ The Urban Harvest is not blocked in China and will soon open another location in Shanghai at the popular Grand Gateway 66 shopping mall.

This is their sign at the mall when I recently passed by:

sign for The Urban Harvest with a green logo very similar to the Google+ logo

Described on Time Out Shanghai as "equal parts open lab and restaurant", g+ The Urban Harvest states on Shanghai WOW!, "we believe that freshness and sustainability play key roles in maintaining a healthy and natural lifestyle". According to company's website, which at the moment is largely nonfunctional, the "g+" stands for "Green Plus".

This is not the only time in China "g+" or "g plus" has been used as part of a name for a business, including some which existed prior to Google+. For example, the now-closed Club G Plus opened in 2006 in Shanghai and used "G+" in its logos.

G+ logo for Club G Plus in Shanghai

Nonetheless, the similarity of the g+ The Urban Harvest logo and the Google+ logo is remarkable. I can't add much more to this tale, but for more information about the restaurant you could download the Urban Harvest app on iTunes.

screen shot of iTunes page for the Urban Harvest app

Unsurprisingly, they don't appear to offer an app on Google Play.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weinermobiles and Dragonmobiles

One day long ago when I was walking near the Washington Monument in Baltimore's historic Mount Vernon district, something passed by which made me feel like I was in a surreal dream. But I was indeed in the real world, and for the first time I saw one of the famous Oscar Mayer Weinermobiles.

Oscar Mayer Weinermobile in Minnesota
A modern Weinermobile in Minnesota. (Photo by Jonathunder — license details)

While I was in Shanghai recently for short period of time, a vehicle with a different theme similarly grabbed my attention.

a vehicle (dragonmobile) decorated to look like a dragon driving down a street in Shanghai
But no vanity license plate

The "dragonmobile" displayed advertising for a nearby China Gold retail location in Xujiahui, and a group of people in the back played live music. The tune didn't seem as a catchy as the hot dog variation of Oscar Mayer's bologna song though.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mr. Bean Furniture in China

At a large furniture mall in Changde, Hunan, this store especially caught my attention:

No. 1 Lovely Bean (小憨豆) store in Changde, Hunan

Mr. Bean can be appreciated for more than just the humor he provides, and the furniture store's branding raises issues about how Mr. Bean is perceived in China. It was not the first time I have seen a No. 1 Lovely Bean (小憨豆) store in China. The company (成都雄峰家具有限公司) is based in Chengdu, Sichuan, and they have shared photos of their team conducting assorted activities, perhaps in team or Mr. Bean spirit. You can learn more about the company on its website (in Chinese).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Changde Red

I should be able to return to my more usual posting frequency shortly and also deliver my previously promised stories of "fun". In the meantime, for a contrast to a black, white, & green photo, here is another Changde scene, sans any color filtering, which is heavy on reddish colors:

 field of red flowers in front if Chinese style gate building

Sunday, July 20, 2014

More Dogs in Hengyang

In Hengyang, Hunan, I have seen dogs taking a run, a ride, or sitting around in a park. One day in Hengyang next to the Xiang River, I also saw dogs taking walk . . .

. . . and taking a swim.

Just some more dog love in Hengyang.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Black, White, & Green in Changde

Now that I finally have a functioning laptop and access to the Internet with a VPN once again, here is a black, white, & green scene from Binhu Park in Changde, Hunan province.

lily pads in a lake with apartment buildings in the background at Binhu Park in Changde, Hunan

I pondered much as I walked around the park on Tuesday earlier this week. However, I did not ponder that soon my laptop's video card would suddenly stop doing what a video card should do, that I would not be allowed to use the computers at local Internet cafes, that flooding would cancel a night train I had no idea I would book later that night, nor much else related to several days of unexpected "fun" during which I was unable to post here.

More on those stories and some of what they say later.

In the meantime, I will take a few more moments to ponder my pondering at a now far away lake.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Still Shoe Shining in Hengyang, China

Last year I shared a shoe shining scene from over two and a half years ago in Hengyang, Hunan:

shoe shining on a sidewalk in Hengyang

Despite only spending a couple of days in Hengyang during my first visit and the long period of time since then, I thought I could find the same location and see what it looks like now. Would the shoeshiners still be there?


shoeshiners waiting for customers at the same location in Hengyang

Like other comparisons of scenes from over two years ago and now in Hengyang, some change is noticeable. Most surprising to me was that I recognized one of the women. So I told her I had been there over 2 years ago, and she claimed to recognize me as well. Although I doubt I would have recognized her without having recently looked at the old photo, perhaps she did remember a foreigner taking her photo long ago. Whatever the case, after a friendly chat and a thorough "shoe shine", my sneakers almost looked like new.

woman smiling as she cleans a sneaker

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hengyang's Happy Zone

Many people in the world seek a happy zone. I had the pleasure to pass by one today near Lianhu Square in Hengyang, Hunan province.

Happy Zone (开心地带) in Hengyang, Hunan

I didn't go inside Happy Zone, which I believe is an Internet cafe, but simply seeing the name brought me a bit of happiness. In case you are wondering, the English name is a direct translation of its Chinese name 开心地带 (Kāixīn Dìdài).

If Hengyang is too far away to visit, even for a zone of happiness, perhaps other establishments with the Happy Zone name, both offering karaoke, in New York and Houston are closer to you.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Birds at a Hengyang Restaurant

On a wall at a restaurant in Hengyang, Hunan:

A wall at a restaurant in Hengyang with a classical Chinese style painting of a scene with two birds.