Saturday, 18 October 2008

Five things I disliked in New York

1. All the ice
It's not healthy! I used to go to a gym. The owner once saw me drinking cold water while working out and came to yell at me. He said drinking cold water was like pouring cold water in a furnace. I can sort of see the logic. In traditional Chinese medicine (which I am a fan off) cold is also seen as potentially harmful (of course, my mother knew that long before I met my first acupuncturist). Since so many Americans don't even have health insurance, they should lay off the ice for their own good.

2. Aggressive salesmen
"Hi Sir, How are you doing today?" "Fine. Thanks." "Do you have any questions?" Shit. Dude, if I had any questions, I would have come up to you and asked. Right? Now you've actually chased me away from this section of the shop. I know it's arrogant of me but I just tend to assume the sales people will be there when I need them without introductions and the like.

3. Hidden taxes
This happened to me over and over in New York: I decided to buy an item and it turned out more expensive than labelled. I bought a computer at J&R, received a special discount and still ended up paying more than the original price. Or I would get the correct change ready to try to get rid of all the useless one cent coins just to find out I will actually end up with more of those coins. I know the taxes go to the state and not to the seller but still, why not just include them on the label? In our neck of the woods, THE STATE would step in and make this mandatory (the way mobile operators can not advertise prices without the VAT included).

Reservoir Dogs by Flickr user Varanaus4. Tipping
In 1997 I was in New York as a poor student. At one point we simply could not afford leaving the (then) requisite 15% tip. The waiter came running after us to ask very aggressively if there was anything wrong with the service he had provided. These days, many places will add on a tip (18% I saw this time) automatically for parties of five or more, or six or more people. I understand that waiters are paid less than the minimum wage. But to me the tip should remain an instrument to reward extra effort, not an entitlement. Like with hidden taxes decent waiter wages (perhaps reflecting the pretty much mandatory 10% tip level) could well be included in the sticker price. As a side note, only on my last day I realised the percentage should be calculated from the PRE-TAX price so I had been actually tipping more than I wanted to the whole time.

5. Overwhelming size
I will admit it. I am bumpkinly (definition: awkwardly simple and provincial, as in "bumpkinly country boys"). I used to think of myself as an urban dweller but defining urban on Bratislava's scale. In New York I felt outnumbered. So many cool places to go (NOLITA, anyone?), so much to do, so much going on, so much choice in everything... I think if I lived there I would end up becoming a very local resident of one of the neighbourhoods. But the idea of so much going on so nearby all the time frustrated me.

Coming up next on this blog's New York debriefing series: getting screwed out of a $1,100 deposit by an Izumi von Hardenberg who had promised us The Most Luxurious Three Bedroom Apartment in Times Square.