The Dragon Mart dress
Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that Dubai is not all swishy hair and pedicures. That it can also be cheap Chinese handbags and “sliming” pills, bad smells and cons.
You can tell I’ve been to Dragon Mart can’t you?
For the uninitiated – and I count many who live in Dubai among that number – Dragon Mart (rhyming tagline “shop smart”) is a massive indoor market (I can’t bring myself to call it a mall, it’s not a mall) where every item in the world – from industrial machinery and indoor fountains to Hello Kitty pyjamas and hair extensions – is piled up to the ceilings and can be bought cheap as chips and made in China.
Anyway, after taking a look around when Dragon Mart first opened back in the bowels (literally) of time, I’ve never been back. I’m not overly fond of cheap Chinese tat, nor of coming home from a shopping trip with my clothes stinking of fried food, incense and whatever other unsavoury smells are permeating the air that day.
But next week is Chinese New Year and DS has been ordered to go to school wearing traditional Chinese clothes. Where better to purchase these than from Dubai’s heart of China itself?
I took a deep breath and waded in.
Within five minutes I’d found and secured a pair of black Chinese pyjamas for DS, complete with a red dragon on the front. Made of high-quality flammable polyester they were such a bargain that my mind must have flipped because the next thing I knew I was holding up a dress against me in a dodgy Chinese shop and asking the lady how much.
I mean, seriously, Mrs Dubai, did you take leave of your senses?
Clearly I did because when she said AED 180 I agreed at once, despite everything else in the shop being priced at about AED 40, and I bought the damn thing without even trying it on (no changing room – she said I could whip my clothes off on the shop floor but you can get arrested for things like that in Dubai so I didn’t).
It was with an impending sense of doom that I took the dress home. What had I been thinking? It was a jumper dress, 50 per cent of which was acrylic. I live in Dubai. I don’t wear jumper dresses. I also don’t wear acrylic. Saints preserve me, what had I done?
Anyway, I tried on the dress at home and, surprise, surprise, it was too short, looked appalling and felt horrific on my skin. But what to do? Does Dragon Mart offer refunds? Stung by the realisation that I’d paid way over the odds for my crappy frock in the first place, I packed it back into its cellophane bag and decided to try. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try.
So I took another deep breath and waded into Dragon Mart again the next day – the strange white woman who actually came back, much to the amusement of the Pakistani delivery boys who line the entrances tarring their lungs with endless cigarettes.
I strode in, confident of where the shop was located in the rabbit warren of aisles. But it wasn’t there. I retraced my steps – twice – and then I saw it, lurking in a dark corner, my jumper dress still looking alluring in the window. I went in. I chose my moment, explained that the dress was too short and asked for a refund.
“No do refund,” said the lady. “Boss not here. Do exchange.”
So I looked around the shop again, fiddled with a few dresses, held up a couple against me, lingered some more, then asked the assistant when the boss would be back. “Really, nothing fits me,” I shrugged. “I tried but too tall. Please you can give refund? I have receipt.”
“Okay,” she said, opening the till and handing me back the 180. A happy ending, but lesson learned: Never buy a dress in Dragon Mart.