I have a close friend, one of the most perceptive observers of the Taiwan scene I know, who often beefs about how Taiwanese businesses seem unwilling to sell consumers things, even though the consumer is in front of them, cash in hand…. I had my own ‘Moment’ of marketing cluelessness in Hsinchu this weekend that brought my friend to mind….

We went to some fancy organic restaurant in Hsinchu called the Orange something-or-other.

Eating at the fancy place…

It was delicious, and the end of the meal was made perfect by a wonderful chocolate mousse delicacy that made my palate sit up and beg. Everyone agreed to go downstairs to the restaurant’s supermarket and buy a whole cake to take home.

The expensive supermarket…

The supermarket was a well-presented place done up in Ikea-style wood shelves and full of expensive western food. I was tempted by the parmesan cheese, until I realized it was worth more than my computer. My sister in law strolled over to the bakery counter, preparing to take a mousse cake captive. Naturally, since the bakery is shared between the restaurant and the supermarket, it should be no problem, right?

Wrong! The nice lady helpfully informed us in her best “It’s the Policy Ma’am” voice, that what was served upstairs was not sold in the bakery downstairs. Another brilliant triumph of administration genius over marketing common sense!

But that was the only bad spot of a pleasant day of waking up and smelling the flowers. Here’s some for you!

In Hsinchu we went swimming, and I stayed home to watch the kids on Sunday afternoon. My nieces were sick, a commonplace among Taiwanese kids, so we couldn’t go out. The newspapers and the chattering class typically explain the widespread coughs among children as due to the foul pollution in the atmosphere, but I often wonder if it is because kids in Taiwan simply don’t get enough sleep. Most Taiwanese kids I know are up well past eleven regardless of age, and it is not uncommon to see toddlers running around night markets in the wee hours of the morning. When my nieces come stay with us they go to bed at 8-8:30 instead of 11, and their coughs magically disappear, and their appetites pick up too.

Of course, it’s not like the locals are stupid. For many families the parents would never see the kids if they put them to bed at 8 like we do. Long working hours mean that parents often do not get home until after 7.