Northwest Airlines: A First Class Security Hole

Northwest Airlines operates one flight, daily, from Shanghai’s Pudong Airport: Flight 26, to Tokyo Narita.

On Tuesday morning I arrived at the airport two hours before flight 26’s scheduled departure and took my place in the very long check-in cue that snakes in front of the Northwest counters. Ahead of me, I could see that all passenger luggage was being hand-searched by airport staff before passengers were allowed to check it. This is nothing new: it’s been going on – off and on – for several years now, and likely has to do with the fact that NW 26 continues to Detroit after a Tokyo layover.

On Tuesday I stood in the coach check-in lane until recalling that I have Northwest “elite” status, which – among its handful of benefits – allows me to check-in via the shorter line designated for first class passengers. So, I slipped beneath the stanchions and took my place behind a mere two passengers (rather than the dozens lined up in coach).

And, from there, I noticed another, very important reason why the first class line was moving more quickly than the coach line: Passengers in the coach line were required to subject their checked-luggage to a hand-search; passengers in the first class line were NOT. Below, a photo of the first class line on Tuesday. Note the screened area to the immediate left of the first class passengers: it’s one of several bag hand-check areas stationed to the right of each coach line, and to which coach passengers were subjected before checking their bags. The first class passengers were able to proceed directly to the counter.

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but this struck me – and strikes me – as a giant security hole. Put it this way: if you’re flying Northwest from Shanghai to Tokyo, and you don’t want to subject your bags to a hand-check (for whatever reason), simply buy or upgrade to a First Class ticket. You’ll be hand-check free (at least, you would have been last Tuesday). Continue reading

No Nano 4 Best Buy China.

On Friday I ran my beloved iPod nano, 2nd gen, through the laundry. Some consolation was provided by the news that Apple had released its much-vaunted 4th generation iPod nano a few days before. So, if I couldn’t have my old one, I could at least have a new and improved one.

The old one, the now water-logged one, was purchased at the first Best Buy in China (fyi: Best Buy is the largest consumer electronics retailer in North America) in a transaction that I recall as being blissfully trouble-free compared to those I’d had in China’s native consumer electronics retailers (Gome, etc), and it’s much-hated, way-too-crowded, e-malls (filled with independently-owned kiosks affiliated with manufacturers) That is, Best Buy didn’t surround me with pushy salespeople, didn’t require me to negotiate, and – best of all – their return policy all but guaranteed that I wouldn’t be sold a cheap counterfeit. Score a sale for Best Buy.

So, this morning, I wandered down to the same Best Buy store (in Xujiahui), walked to the portable music player section, and inquired of the staff as to where I might find a new iPod nano, 4th generation. A salesperson led me to a kiosk that had space (and price tags) for half-a-dozen 3rd generation iPod nanos, though only one was on display. The others had either been removed or sold. In other words: an all but empty nano kiosk.

“When will you get the fourth generation?” I asked.

The clerk consulted with a supervisor and returned to me. “After the October [national day] holiday.” [October 6]. Continue reading

Shanghai’s Biggest T-storm in living color

Thanks to Shanghaiist, and – later – Shanghai Daily, I learn that the large thunderstorm that I witnessed rolling into Shanghai on Saturday was “reportedly the strongest in over 100 years” to hit Shanghai. It was certainly the darkest, and most ominous that I’ve ever seen hanging over this city. As it happened, at the time it struck, I was at New Heights. Below, a photo of the Bund a few minutes before the rain reduced visibility to twenty meters, at most.

Sunday Afternoon

I’ve been in my current Shanghai apartment for four years, and I’ve come to know my neighbors fairly well. But for some reason, before this afternoon, I’d never noticed the religious statuary in the window that angles towards one of mine, nor the wooden beads on the owner’s wrist.

The photo was taken quietly, while the owner was lazing on her sofa in the fading sunlight.

The State of Expat Advertising

This one’s for the folks outside of Shanghai.

If you live in Shanghai, you are almost certainly aware of this advertisement for the high-end Dragonfly Spa which, prior to this campaign, emphasized its classical Chinese roots. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that I may have been the last expat in Shanghai to see this campaign (it seems to have been placed, full page, in every English-language magazine in Shanghai). But whatever. There’s much to admire here … and to admire it in all of its glory and color, click on the thumb below to get an expanded image. I think, as details go, nothing quite beats the lower lip bite.

As it happens, I know people who know this model (he is not a professional model – go figure), and though I’m not at liberty to divulge what was said to me in regard to this image, suffice it to say that there is puzzlement all around.

Wait a minute, Mister Postman.

As noted in previous posts, Haibao, the Gumby-like mascot for World Expo 2010, has, in the wake of the Olympics, infiltrated Shanghai. Writing from the perspective of Shanghai Scrap HQ: he is on the banners that hang from the lampposts on my street; he is on posters in the subway station downstairs; and he is depicted in a needlessly massive sculpture in the nearby park where I like to walk. But, at least before today, he had not invaded my home.

Alas, all good things come to an end.

This afternoon I found this Haibao-themed postcard in my mailbox (a brief inquiry revealed that I am not the only person in my building to receive one):

Shanghai mail is often late, and this card – which commemorates the “600 Days Until” date on 9 September – is no exception. I admit to flinching when I saw Haibao prancing across my power bill. Is nothing sacred? In the years running up to the Olympics, did Beijing residents open their mailboxes to find Fuwa postcards? I think not. Continue reading

Mooncake Scalpers!

I moved to China nine days before the 2002 mid-Autumn Festival – the Mooncake Festival – and it’s been my favorite Chinese holiday ever since. But I’ll leave that story for another time. For now, suffice it to say that – in my years here, I’ve been witness to the development of the mooncake status symbol, whereby the simple mooncake – a pastry that wraps around, say, lotus paste – has been transformed into a branded delicacy and Status Symbol. Two years ago, for example, I received a leather embossed box of four shark fin mooncakes complete with three (three!) 2gb memory sticks and a gift certificate for a dinner for two at a nearby hotel buffet – all branded with the name of that very same 5-star hotel.

Häagen Dazs Cake Decorating Kitchen, Shanghai, Minghang District. 2005. ©Adam Minter

But as status inducing as that box was, no mooncake better exemplifies the mooncake transformation than the almighty Häagen Daz mooncake (one thoughtful friend from Heilongjiang calls them the “perfect fusion of Chinese traditional culture and American commercial culture.” Indeed). I can’t speak for the rest of China, but in Shanghai, these expensive little ice cream-filled pastries have become the mid-Autumn festival gift of choice. Put differently – you ain’t nobody unless you’ve been given – or can give! – a certificate to redeem a stylized box of RMB 520 (US$82) ice cream-filled mooncakes.

So. This afternoon I happened to be walking by the recently closed Häagen Dazs store at Huaihai Road and Huangpi South Road. I wasn’t thinking about mooncakes, actually – but then I noticed three shady looking fellas sitting on the edge of a treebox in front of the closed store. One was holding a Häagen Dazs mooncake catalog; one was holding a pile of certificates (supposedly), all good for boxes of Häagen Dazs mooncakes; and one was holding an envelope of cash. Continue reading