The Trade Show Hostage Crisis
“We get our kicks above the waistline.”
–“One Night in Bangkok” from the play, “Chess.”
I hate trade shows. I hate them with a passion that I reserve for the truly odious– Mitch McConnell, FOX News and durian.
My mom might not have liked hearing this, but I’d say that some of the best vacation hours of my youth were wasted in expo centers and merchandise marts. That’s where my sisters and I would wait for my parents to do the buying for their pharmacy and airport gift shop so they could get their business out of the way and we could get on with the rest of the trip. I realize they did it so part of the trip would be tax-deductible. I still think there must have been a better way to deal with us than leaving my sisters and I in the hotel room to watch television and bash each other’s brains in when we finally got bored. There were times when they took us to trade shows, however. Then, we would go up and down the aisles, see everything there was to see within the first half hour only to return to the starting point and see our parents still ordering in the first booth.
So, I’m still at a loss to explain why I agreed to attend a Bangkok gift show at my mom’s request. I didn’t even know what kind of merchandise she wanted, other than the usual gewgaws and doodads such as fish, shells and dolphins. For good or ill, my mom prided herself on selling unusual items such as fine porcelain figurines, fine jewelry, and other things not typically found in airport giftshops. So, I was operating blindly, trying to find something for the shop when I didn’t know what she wanted. The only thing I knew for sure was she didn’t have much call for housewares, but that was what all the exhibitors at this show were selling.
This is typical.
As part of the deal, my family insisted I stay at an upscale, western hotel so I could get business cards printed, they could contact me, I could fax messages home, and I could hop a shuttle from a hotel to the show. It was a sacrifice, but I agreed to stay at a $100-a-night hotel with air conditioning, phones in the rooms, all-you-can eat brunches and dinners, and showers with hot water. Backpacker that I am, I spent 20 minutes in the shower trying to get the hot water to run out, but became bored with the past time when I realized it wouldn’t happen.
The show may have been small one, but it took me almost two hours to visit every booth. It’s not a question of my slowing down or enjoying trade shows more. Instead, the tour was unusually long because the show began with a speech by a government official welcoming everyone to the city’s first international housewares show (I’m still not sure if he was the minister of trade, prime minister of exports or attache of housewares), continued with a ribbon cutting ceremony as well as Thai native dancing, and was followed by the mad rush for the exhibits as buyers began looking for stuff to. . . well, buy.
It may have been the first international housewares trade show, but the Thais were no dummies when it came to handling such events. While there was free shuttle service from nearby hotels to the Queen Siragut Exposition Center at 9, 9:30 and 10 a.m., they not only didn’t provide return shuttles until 5 p.m., they also made escaping the compound quite difficult by closing and locking all of the gates surrounding the building. I finally found an escape route, but I had to wander through the parking lot for 30 minutes to find it, then walk more than a mile back to the hotel in the stifling mid-day heat wearing my best clothes.
Considering my best clothes consisted of a pair of high-water navy trousers, a short sleeve dress shirt and my hiking boots, that’s not saying all that much.
Although I did have to make another couple of trips to the expo, I learned to ride a shuttle out and use alternative modes of transportation to return.