This morning while cleaning my office I found an item I collected a few years ago while in Shanghai which I immediately thought should be considered a Mystery Object. It is a “menu of fake stuff” that I acquired from one of the many salespeople of knockoff consumer goods who troll the length of Nanjing Road. To walk the street as a foreigner is to be constantly accosted by the salespeople who slide up next to you, flip out a laminated “menu” of goods they sell and drop a few words of whatever language they think their mark might speak,
I’ve never been interested in their wares, but one evening while rejecting the dozenth or so request to buy a fake luxury product I realized the thing that interested me the most was their “menu” of products. So banal. So ordinary. So everyday. I had seen so many over the years that had I collected them earlier I would have a documented visual history of knock offs.
Without a pause I asked the man who approached me how much he would charge for the “menu.” His response was a brief moment of confusion, followed by the typical, “Follow me.” He had assumed what I meant was I wanted to buy something on in the menu but had made a mistake asking for it in Chinese.
I repeated myself, “No, I want this product menu.” Still confused, he waived the menu and replied somewhat incredulously, “You want this?”
He thought for a moment and replied that it would cost eight Yuan. When I promptly opened my wallet to fish out the appropriate amount to give to him, he clearly seemed disappointed. His opening offer in the attempt at bartering wasn’t high enough.
So, for about $1.25 I managed to acquire a unique item—a menu used by a salesperson selling knockoff luxury products. A menu of things pretending to be other things which customers will buy in hopes of faking out friends and passersby.