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Directions: Corner of Tran Duy Hung and Pham Hung highway (which leads to Metro/Ciputra/Noi Bai)Phone: unknown
44 Chau Long, Ba Đình, Hanoi
“This review is long overdue. A few reasons for writing it now: Firstly, some years ago, I confess, I was a little critical of HCC's fairly expensive, advertised cooking classes. Unfortunately, I was critical without having actually attended a class...! I have since had the opportunity to at...”
I discovered what the "C" in Big C stands for last week. "Big Clusterf#ck", to echo Atomic's sentiments.
There are simply way too many people driving out here to save 10,000 dong on a freakin' hairdryer or other random "necessity". I gave them a shot because I'd heard they have Western-style blankets (Fail). In fact I didn't see much at Big C that can't be purchased in multiple other venues around Hanoi.
The customer service is laughable. After failing at blankets, I walked over to the electronics section, and the following conversation actually happened:
(After picking out some desktop speakers. Give me a break, I didn't want the entire trip to be an absolute failure.)
G: I'll take these.
BC: Khong (No)
G: Hmm... Ok, I want this (in Vietnamese)
G: Do you speak English?
BC: Yes, a little.
G: Ok, why can't I have these?
BC: Nobody can give you.
G: Uh... Do you have them in stock?
G: Can you get them for me?
G: Why not?
BC: I stay here.
G: Can someone get them for me?
BC: No. Nobody can get. Nobody in stock.
G: Ah, so there is nobody in the stock room?
BC: Yes, nobody. Come back tomorrow.
G: Can anyone else here go and get them for me?
BC: No. You come back tomorrow.
G: I don't want to come here tomorrow. In fact, I never want to come here again.
BC: (Smile) Ok, tomorrow.
G: Ok, I want to buy these and these and these and these and these (pointing to a stereo system that would add up to somewhere around $5,000).
BC: Ok, you come tomorrow.
G: ...I want to buy everything here.
BC: Yes, tomorrow.
G: Ok, see you tomorrow. (smile)
Are you F'ing kidding me?
The one amusing aspect of visiting Big C is their camera security system. It's a single camera on a large track with a retracting arm, sliding the camera clear across the store and back. That shit is funny. It looks like something out of the Gilliam film "Brazil". It apparently didn't do its job very well, as I witnessed a middle-aged, well-dressed man dumping handfuls of new batteries into his coat pocket.
If Metro weren't even worse, I'd give Big C one star. Avoid at all costs.
For all the horror stories about Big C, both on here and by word of mouth, maybe, just maybe, things are improving. After a few visits, at different times of the day and week, it is certainly not a place to avoid like the plague. Completely agree with the advice to avoid on weekends, makes good sense. But during the week, it is actually not too bad at all.
Big C is big - funny that! It is busy, sometimes crowded but more often like any other large shopping centre you might find around the world. Shopping in Singapore, for example, can be wall-to-wall people. Classier perhaps but still like sardines!
I have to give Big C some credit for being a massive one stop shopping centre. Pretty much whatever you are looking for can be found here either in the gi-normous supermarket or the shops underneath. That makes for convenience which appeals to a large proportion of an economically growing population.
Having taken note of past comments on safety and security I always go well prepared with wallet etc tucked into the internal pocket of a jacket. Never though have I felt insecure or at risk of being pickpocketed. I simply go about my business as any other shopper.
A couple of points about the supermarket:
* the meat section is terrific. There is a small butchery facility as well as lots of pre-packed meat in refrigerated cabinets. Much better portion size and packing than Metro, for example. Meat quality is very good - have had some excellent pieces of steak.
* the dairy section is large but stocks predominantly Vietnamese brands with little imported options
* the wine section is large but woeful in quality, just woeful!
* the stationery/office supplies section i very good - I have brought a lot of things there, including a leather binder for not much
* they sell motorbikes (!!!) and helmets - have seen full face helmets for VND300k which look pretty good (for small heads I think)
* paying by credit card is well nigh impossible at checkout (as per previous review), basically if it won't dial out they won't pursue it. Bring cash.
* Have never had a problem getting one of the shopping carts. They have standard trolleys and the plastic baskets/carts with handle and rollers, which I find much better for getting around the store, as well as smaller hand-held baskets.
I have tossed up the star rating but given I have never actually had a bad experience, it deserves four stars. Read all the other reviews, search ANH for comments on Big C as well, go well prepared mentally and you just might surprise yourself and get through unscathed.
This is a review based on the new pricing of wines and liquors at Big C.
All have gone up (no surprise, the inflation rate is 7% - 10% higher than official stats from the government, as relayed to me by my landlord who happens to be deputy minister of finance).
The main reason for the review is that I don't know where one can pass on general information like this.
The main target is Gordon's Gin. It has been reduced from 75cl to 70cl and worse, the alcohol content has been reduced from 40% to 37.5%. Noted the same thing at Citimart. So, increased price, decreased bottle size and less alcohol. It is almost impossible to get the original Gordon's at 40% and 43% in Hanoi.
I have sent an inquiry to Gordon's but have yet to receive a reply.
I intend to check out the bottle of Gordon's the next time I am at my usual bars, no wonder the gins an tonics and the dry martini cocktails have been tasting like mineral water lately.
For an extra 10 - 20,000 dong, you can move up to Tanqueray (also owned by Gordon's), Beefeater or Bombay in any bar in the city. At least you'll be getting a real drink.
If you find a stash of the Gordon's good stuff, buy it now, it will soon be a dinosaur according to Wikipedia (money saving). On the other hand, if you find the good stuff let me know and I'll the whole damn lot.
Sometimes, I just have to go to this Big C because I know I can get stuff I can hardly get anywhere else in Hanoi. But, trust me, this experience is like entering the gates of HELL.
The only positive thing is that except western food (the selection is really bad), you can buy almost anything else. That's it.
The place is always crowded, especially in the afternoons and on the weekends. Staff here is really bad, not helping and poorly trained. There are always huge queues at the cashiers. The customers zombie-walking around in pyjamas, taking selfies or group photos in front of vegetables or skin-peeled crocodiles, getting in your way, pushing you, taking stuff from your cart or even "stealing" your cart when you turn away when you reach for something in the shelves...
After visiting the Big C for several times, I have concluded shopping place like this is just not suitable for Hanoi where the general behavioral and sociocultural skills of the population are at the level they are...
On the other way, if you are a masochist or you would like to experience the Vietnamese behavioral "culture" in a deadly concentrated way, just go for it. But otherwise, avoid this "living hell" unless you have no other option left.
Big C is a good concept, one of the great concepts, as proven by the thousands of Westfields and Wall Marts all around the world, but bad implementation of the formula that so many others get so right pulls Big C downwards into... as other reviewers have said... useless clusterfuckdom. Perhaps I am being presumptuous, arrogant even, but I would say that Vietnamese culture simply does not allow, or has not adapted to allow, an entity like Big C to operate smoothly. Or perhaps to the Vietnamese psyche Big C is a smooth operation, who am I to judge. Anyway, Regardless of the ancient and noble cultural mysteries on display at Big C, I find it to be intolerable. The sluggish, self-centred nature of the crowds make walking around shopping akin to navigating my motorbike through peak hour De La Thanh traffic, with everyone only interested in wherever they need to be right now. I realise that a new country, a new culture requires me to adapt, and adapt I do, pushing and shoving with the best of them, but it doesn't mean I enjoy having to literally force my way through 3 teenage girls, a mother with 2 children and a dwarfish old man with a beard just to get to my butter. Aaaaaaand that brings me to Big C's range of products. Most of what Big C sells is shit. True - they do have almost anything you might want, in almost any area: Lots and lots of fresh produce, meat, cans, drinks, clothes, housewares, cosmetics, lollies, frozen goods (not all that much dairy).. But most of its pretty bottom of the barrel stuff. Prices aren't really any better than anywhere else I've been, and in some cases Big C has been moderately to significantly more expensive than smaller competitors. Staff are disinterested and slow, both at the checkout and on the floor, meaning queues build and build while checkout girls spend almost a minute searching for each individual barcode, scanning each one of the 30 identical packets of washing powder separately and take an infuriatingly long time to count out, recount out (and recount out) change. The individual stores downstairs as well as the food court on the third floor are better, if only because customers are more segregated into smaller chunks than in the monster second chamber, but there is no point to them, the food on the top floor isn't very good and the products on offer downstairs are... useless.
I mean, ok, so big C has its advantages. Its a lot of stuff in one place. Its sometimes cheaper than other stores. And (I hesitate to say this) it has (or had) potential, if both the store operators and customers got their act together. As it stands though, a day spent going to big C is a day wasted, or at least a day that could have been better spent going to smaller, quieter and friendlier stores dotted around Hanoi. The amount of near death experiences one faces getting to the store alone are reason enough to avoid it. Its pointless. Its a cheap and nasty place for cheap and nasty people, run by cheap and nasty people. Don't bother... Unless you too are a cheap and nasty person.
Edit 7/11/11: Since writing this review I have been back to big C two times, the first time I bought glasses and a cheap fry pan, the second time I bought a fan. I still agree with everything I said in my review... Just letting everyone who reads this know that I too am a hypocrite - there are times when I go to Big C just because I know that whatever I want, it will be there.
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