The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Vinegar Is Worth More Than Gold …
May 12, 2010, 6:26 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things I find really interesting about living in Asia is going to the supermarket.

In general there’s two kinds: the ‘local’ and the ‘international’ … and while both are a wonderful places to browse and get a bit of an understanding of the people who go there, I must admit I find the ‘international’ ones especially fascinating – if only for the picture it paints of who the supermarket wants/wishes to shop there.

Without doubt, expats have a privileged life – they earn a great salary, pay a low level of tax, tend to live in nice apartments in nice parts of town, have good jobs – but you know what, even with all that I reckon you’d be hard pressed to find even Jamie ‘mockney’ Oliver happy to spend such an enormous amount of money on this:

OK … OK … for those of you who haven’t got the faintest idea how much almost HK$4,000 is, it’s:

AU $556.02
SG $707.00
US $515.08
UK £337.94



Fucking vinegar … the sort of stuff you get free down the local takeaway.

Seriously, would that bottle really make your packet of chips taste that much better?

Apparently it’s been brewed [or whatever you call it] for EIGHTY YEARS.

Vinegar. 80 years. Three hundred quid.

Am I the only one who thinks this is all fucking mental?

I know Asia is obsessed with status – driving sales of everything from watches and bags through to cars and apartments – but you know it’s all gone a bit far when someone wants to charge the GDP of Wales for a bottle of bloody vinegar.

What happens if you’ve bought a bottle and have people over for dinner?

You couldn’t enjoy a single second of the evening as you’d be watching your guests with hawks eyes as they pour 5 bucks away every time a little drop touches their food … but you’d have to let them use it or they’d be no point owning the bloody thing given you’d be the sort of person that has no self esteem and instead has to fake it through the aquisition of items that serve no value other than to show other meaningless individuals you have cash.

The World’s gone mad, but not as mad as the person who stocked it or bought it.

BTW – and I know this is going to sound uber-pathetic – does anyone know who was the first person to refer to a market as a ‘supermarket’?

It’s just I’m doing something for a client about marketing ideas/positioning that have now become part of the general landscape, and it appears to me that once-upon-a-time, someone decided to refer to their market as a ‘supermarket’ in a bid to position themselves as being ‘bigger, better & cheaper’ than their competition and yet because they didn’t invest in directly linking that term to their brand, it has now just become a general descriptor for the entire category.

Yes I know, stating the obvious … but I do find it quite interesting to try and isolate the point where specific term/definition lost its ability to relate to the person/brand who dreamt it up.

Right enough of this bollocks, time to go and shove some Sarsons on my chips … it’s only a couple of quid a bottle and tastes fucking lovely.

36 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Just saw forest got beaten. Are you OK or do I need to get you put on suicide watch?

That is a lot of money for a bottle of vinegar even if if has been fermented for 80 years. It’s like the growth in olive oil, you can find some that cost huge amounts but at least that is an ingredient rather than a condiment.

Did you ask how many they sell? I’d like to think not a lot but I have a suspicion it would be quite a few.

Don’t know who originally came up with the supermarket term. I hadn’t thought of it that way but you’re probably right. How much we take for granted even when there are lessons of marketing all around us.

Nice post Rob, sorry about your team.

Comment by Pete

Sorry again about Forrest Rob.

Comment by Rafik

three hundred quid for a bottle of fucking vinegar?

at those prices porn flicks will have to rename the vinegar stroke the mint jelly jerk or go fucking bankrupt.

and its about time you admit you have the life of fucking riley in asia. how some fuckwit companies call it a hardship posting is a fucking joke. living in england with cameron as pm is a fucking hardship posting.

Comment by andy@cynic

Your “mint jelly jerk” comment made me laugh … until I imagined you doing it for some reason, and now I feel even worse than the Forest result/Cameron as PM news.

You win again Boucher.

Comment by Rob

cant beat genius.

Comment by andy@cynic

is it true you bought a fucking ad at the forest game? tell me youre not thar much of a fucking loser. dont get me wrong, youre a loser, but tell me youre not that fucking sad.

Comment by andy@cynic

its forest rafik, not forrest. but I assume you knew that and did it to needle him. excellent fucking work.

so rob, what do you think notts forrests chances are next season?

Comment by andy@cynic

I am sure Rafik didn’t realise it’s spelt FOREST … but I know for a fact you are aware saying NOTTS Forest [or Forrest] is sacralidge and given I’ve had the disappointment of watching my teams best season in 11 years end in disappointment annnnnnnnd learn that the UK is now governed by David Cameron – a man who comes up with more fiction than James Cameron annnnnnd I’ve had no sleep annnnnnnnd I still haven’t heard if we’ve got the house we want in Shanghai [which is bound to be no given this week seems to be ‘bad news week’] I’m not entirely happy with your comment Andy … not happy at all.

And no, that doesn’t make you big or clever and yes, you should wipe that smirk off your face for the good of your health.

Right, I’ve finished, so might as well go into work and get on with the other bit of bad news of the week – organising a workshop for some of the most mental clients I’ve ever worked with. Nice, but totally mental and not in the slightest good way.

Something tells me I’ll be consuming a lot of coffee today …

Comment by Rob

thats all very fucking pleasing to hear but answer the question. did you or did you not pay for an ad at the fucking match?

Comment by andy@cynic

Maybe a little one. Maybe. Ahem,

Comment by Rob

you sad sad sad sad fuck.

spending your undeserved riches wisely then. tool.

Comment by andy@cynic

I indeed did not know better. Don’t blame me though, I’m just from Canada.

Good luck with moving to Vancouver. it’s really pointless there.

Comment by Rafik

disappointed rafik, i had hopes of evil in you.

and im not moving to vancouver full time, its where brian adams comes from for fucks sake, what other reason do you need not to move there full fucking time? if i had my way id never of bought the run down shithole, but the wife fell in love with “the potential” and a happy wife is a happy life. plus canadaian dollars isnt like real money is it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh and judging by the price some Hongkees are willing to shell out for vinegar, importing maple syrup doesn’t seem like such a stupid idea.

Well it’s still quite stupid, but you know what I mean.

Comment by Rafik

I know exactly what you mean … and now Jason “the Canadian” Oke is here to join my wife, you could be sitting on a fortune.

Comment by Rob

Is the question ‘why’? Why do people by a $500 bottle of vinegar?
I tend to think a more useful question is ‘how’ – How is it justified/ used/ supported in culture…
I was always freaked out by the amount of food ordered at any dining occasion in China. I struggled with the idea that you needed to leave food on the table when you left and that this was important not only to the host but everyone at the table.
Displaying abundance is more than about status…
As for me- I can’t understand the emotional involvement with a couple of dozen or so chaps kicking a ball around….

Comment by Katie Chatfield

I know what you’re saying Katie and you’re right ‘HOW’ is an interesting question … however the thing that I find quite interesting is that whilst status, wealth & respect are incredibly important to the culture [especially in situations where you are on ‘public display’] … it is equally important to not be seen as paying too much which is why we see the phenomenon of people driving million dollar cars who’ll sit and wait till the road toll clicks down to no charge.

For the record, I find the Western need to demonstrate success far more blatant than many in Asia – though interestingly in both cultures, the uber-uber-uber rich tend to be the ones who live in a manner you’d never expect from someone with such wealth.

I once went to visit a friend at their office in Beijing. In walked an old man in a singlet and shorts who received an envelope from my mate.

When I asked what he’d given him, he replied the rent. When I asked if he was the landlord he told me the man owned the block. Amazing … almost as amazing as the guy who bought 70 units last week. In cash.

Finally, as for your view on not appreciating the importance of men kicking a ball around – be grateful, be very grateful indeed. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Oh … and the reason why the vinegar was in the international supermarket rather than the local was probably because they knew no local worth their billions would be seen dead spending so much on it – whereas stupid Western bankers will cough up for anything and then brag how much they paid for it.

Which brings me to a situation I found myself in a few weeks ago.

At dinner with people who brought along the rudest, most arrogant banker [who was French, for added arrogance] you’ve ever seen/heard.

Anyway he made a big deal of wanting to pay for everyone food using his black AMEX. Not only that, but he wanted everyone to feel how heavy the card was because it was “so exclusive”.

Sadly/happily my muttering of “it probably weighs more than his cock” was overheard by everyone which resulted in a ‘scene’ and a banker questioning how someone couldn’t/wouldn’t bow down to his high spending brilliance.


Comment by Rob

In Chinese culture, displays of abundance are often linked to specific rituals and ceremonies that are said to encourage the flow of greater prosperity or luck for the family. There is a great difference between this and the excessive levels of food often ordered when a guest is present, especially a guest from another culture.

Comment by Lee Hill

Good point Lee … especially given that when food is left at less ‘impression based meals’, everything is taken … as we both know first hand eh, ha!

I agree with what Katie’s saying – especially that abundance is more than just about status [a classic mistake] but the basic rule about Asia for me is that everything has a meaning and so the goal is to find out the differences when on face value, they appear identical.

Comment by Rob

“it probably weighs more than his cock”
haha. client meeting? I need to develop my english side more, it sounds like fun.

Comment by Jacob

I once got to try a 50 year old bottle of wine, that was just like bloody vineger and was around 300 quid.
By the way, it’s Balsamic Vinegar isn’t it? It’s not worth 300 quid, but it IS worth paying 50 for it, it’s amazing. This might sound very pretentious for a Northerner, but I am far from a cliche, in face, I am quite cosmopilitan, for example, I call it lunch rather than dinner.
I know nothing about Asia, only global thing I’ve done was for hair straighteners, so there was little point….

Comment by northern

Fifty quid on vinegar? You’ll be saying it’s worth upgrading to a colour television next.

Comment by DH

Jesus Northern, I know you like to cook like a southern jessie but now I hear you like to spend like one too.

Comment by Rob

Only for stuff that is worth it.
I also have Asda as my main shop and wear t-shirts I bought in 1988 (and yes they still fit)

Comment by northern

Show off [about the t-shirts, not Asda obviously!]

Comment by Rob

The fact that you’d be worried about how much vinegar your guest would be pouring on their food just confirms that you’d be serving fish and chips.

You can take the boy out of Nottingham etc. Good thing too.

Comment by John

I wouldn’t serve fish and chips Doddsy – for a start fish costs more than I’m willing to spend on anyone and secondly, I’m allergic to it so the last thing I’d do is feed people something I couldn’t scoff myself.

Comment by Rob

Northern is right to point out this is not Asia specific. Quick bit of googling reveals the retail price for their 30 year old balsamic in the US is $280. Same size bottle.

Comment by John

I never said this was Asia specific – though I do wonder how many everyday supermarkets in the West would stock 300 quid vinegar.

Yes I know

Comment by Rob

The lucky purchaser is paying 80 years rent of bottle space.

Comment by Chris

You’re right Chris … that salary is more than many people in HK earn … but then HK has some of the greatest extreme of wealth and poverty I’ve ever seen, but then it is a place with more billionaires in it than any other place on Earth apparently.

Comment by Rob

any idea of the proportion of these who are happy billionaires?

Comment by Chris

has Volume 1 turned up yet?

Comment by Marcus

Got an email today saying it was finally being sent. Can’t wait.

Comment by Rob

[…] vinegar conjures up images of chips and while I would love to eat a bag of them covered in Sarsons [not that overpriced, poncy stuff] I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want my nether-regions to smell of […]

Pingback by When Product Descriptions Make You Feel Ill … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Leave a Reply