Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In which the author buys speakers from a guy on the street

Not really on the street, per se. But not in Best Buy, either. In Abu Dhabi, you see, if you want car work done you have the option of getting ripped off by the dealership or going to Salaam Street.

Ah, Salaam Street. A magical place that is equal parts construction dust and Mos Eisley. Various stretches of it will sell you specialized goods for your car, your phone or your home stereo. Everything is hawked out of storefronts marked only by giant, illuminated brand-name logos, and often there is a shortage of actual useful things. By that I mean, if you want a chrome side-mirror, you're in luck. But if you want a headlight lens, you're probably not.

Anyway, Ye Olde Audi did not have a brilliant speaker system when we bought it. (although it certainly did when it was new) So, given the two choices listed above, I did the following... and then wrote about it for the newspaper.

How does one decide where to go in a situation like that? Everyone wants your business. Everyone shouts that they will give you the best deal. And worse, all the shops seem roughly equivalent; window tinting, stereo installation, speakers and GPS systems in equal measure no matter which direction your neck swivelled.

So I fell back on a two-pronged standard: 1) I would look for a sign advertising brands I knew and trusted, and 2) I would look for the shop with the most expensive cars parked out front.

It was a frustrating drive that took me almost to the end of the lot. Then I saw it. “Pioneer,” in big, illuminated letters. Parked outside were two Mercedes, three BMWs, a Hummer and an enormously customised Toyota Hilux. Check and check.

I walked into the shop and introduced myself to the technician, who was just finishing a cigarette. He was Filipino and covered in tattoos. He said his name was Mike. Together, we walked outside to check out the car.

Allegedly there is a place in Dubai that functions more like a Best Buy--you go, you pick out some stereo equipment, you wait for a couple of hours while they install it. But where's the fun in that?

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