What does it mean to live in a guanxi society, where so much depends on interpersonal relationships? Part of it is honing an ability to talk your way into or out of a wide range of situations. It could mean getting an official to accept a hongbao — a bribe, as the more righteous among us call it — but it can also be simpler, like getting a vegetable seller to round down, or (here’s a common one) a parking attendant to knock a few kuai off the parking price in exchange for keeping the receipt (in which case, he could pocket the money instead of reporting it to his bosses).
Sometimes, a silver tongue can also be the difference between getting robbed or not. Witness this incident from last Sunday in Jiangbei, Zheijiang province.
Just after 3 am, a young man in a yellow t-shirt and jeans approaches the counter of a deserted convenience store, ostensibly to buy a bag of chips and soft drink. After the female cashier has bagged the products, the man grabs her wrist and presses a knife to her back. Here’s what happens next, as told by the cashier in the video:
When I wasn’t paying attention, he suddenly charged in. He jabbed a knife at me and said, Give me 500 kuai cash.
Most people would panic and fork over everything in the register. Not this one though.
And then I said, Don’t have that much cash.
So then I said, I don’t have that much cash, so is it okay if I just lent you 100 for now?
She cleverly plays the pity card:
It’s not easy for me working here, I’m working the night shift.
A classic bit of bargaining ensues:
And then he says, 100′s not enough, how about 200?
Lest you’ve forgotten, we’re in the midst of an armed robbery.
I said, OK, first put your knife away, there’re cameras here, what a shame if you were to be caught.
And then he puts away his knife and stands there.
And then I had a chat with him. I asked him, Why are you robbing?
He replied that his friend got in a car accident at Shangtang, needs the money.
Moments later, a sedan pulls up to the front of the store and another man walks in. The guy in the yellow t-shirt scoops up the bag in front of him — we’re not sure whether he paid for his chips and soft drink — and walks out.
It’s all too tempting to call him a “dumb” criminal, but let’s take a moment to appreciate what happened here. A man tried to rob a convenience store for a measly 500 yuan — about 75 dollars — so he can help out his buddy whose car needs repair. Unable to convince the female cashier to give him 500, he decides he’s willing to take 200. Unable to wait out the other customer who walks in, he leaves with a bag of chips and Coke, possibly 5 kuai poorer (again, not sure whether he paid).
The Jiangsu police department publicized a cash reward for information that leads to this man’s arrest. We kind of hope he escapes though — that is, as long as he doesn’t try to pull this stunt again. The criminal line of work doesn’t suit him.