TWO pots for RM15 and direct from Cameron Highlands. This is the sales pitch from a trader at the SPPK wet market in Pengkalan, Ipoh last Sunday morning.
The man was trying very hard to sell his pots of chrysanthemums.
The yellow and maroon colours are very popular Chinese New Year flowers.
A pot of chrysanthemums can be priced at RM15 or higher during the festive season.
A market-goer told me that similar pots of chrysanthemums at a nursery nearby were priced at RM18 a pot.
“The nursery boss said 18 is an auspicious number, (rhymes with “surely prosper” in Cantonese),” she quipped.
As market-goers gathered to take a closer look at the plants, the trader went on to convince them that the low price was value for money and the plants were of good quality.
“My brother grows flowers in Cameron Highlands.
“I can get the good plants at a lower price,” he explained.
Never mind that the number is auspicious, it has not been easy to get shoppers to spend freely this Chinese New Year.
While traders would usually slash prices one to two days before Chinese New Year, they were seen doing so last Sunday which is more than a week before the new year.
A few stalls away from the chrysanthemum plant stall was a trader selling mandarin oranges.
Using a loud speaker, he was out to convince people that the prices were the most reasonable.
“Do not worry, this is the best price you can get. Very sweet,” he said in Cantonese.
The boxes of mandarin oranges were stacked so high that it looked like a wholesale market.
His workers were seen carting the boxes and navigating through the crowd.
But the market-goers were not snapping up the oranges.
Meanwhile, some traders who had anticipated the impact on spending as a result of the slowing economy had sourced for cheaper merchandise this year.
One stall selling the fatt choi kor (prosperity fruit in Cantonese) had sourced for a smaller-sized fruit.
“The fruits are priced at RM6 each and it is smaller in size this year.
“Last year, the fruit was bigger and priced ar RM8 each,” said a market-goer.
The fatt choi kor, which resembles a pumpkin, is, however, inedible.
It is used for decoration on the altar of Taoists for good tidings and can last up to six months or longer.
While the Chinese like the number eight, which rhymes with prosper in Chinese, they certainly prefer to pay RM6 instead of RM8 to buy a fatt choi kor in a bid to control their spending.
At a stall selling Chinese New Year decorations, the trader used a loud speaker to attract customers’ attention and said everything was going cheap as this would be his last Sunday for business before he went on holiday for Chinese New Year.
“I want to start my holiday next Sunday,” he said, adding that he wanted to clear his goods.
In Bidor, about 70km from Ipoh, there was not much of a festive mood in the wet market.
The stall selling the Chinese New Year decorations and prayer items such as joss sticks was rather quiet on a Saturday morning.
A noodle seller at a stall opposite the market described the new year atmosphere this round as “very quiet”.
“In small towns like Bidor, people were usually very enthusiastic in preparing for Chinese New Year,” she said.
She was, however, quick to add that Chinese New Year is more than a week away and business might pick up.