"Hey, Laowai, no comparison shopping allowed!"
Funny story recently:
I was killing some time in Sanlitun Village browsing around a branch of this new electronics store called Sun Dan. It's the closest thing I've seen in China yet to Best Buy.
I was interested in some of the new 3G cell phones. Sun Dan has a great selection of floor models, so I walked around, looking at different phones.
As I played with each cell phone, I would make notes on a scrap of paper so I could review later on which phones were my favorite.
I was happily playing around with these cell phones for a while, when out of nowhere a homely sales chick comes up, gets all in my face, and says, "你不能写。" (You're not allowed to write.)
For those of you that speak Chinese, you'll notice that she used the familiar second person "你" and not the formal "您" that normally gets used between a salesperson and a customer.
Another quick language fact: "能", the verb in that sentence, can mean "allowed to", or it can also mean "able to", as in the sentence Spider-Man is able to detect impending danger with his spider-sense.
Making use of the multiple meanings of 能, I looked up at the sales girl, and I say, "Really? But I am writing right now." My implication was, "Hey, you're claiming that I'm not able to write, but here I am, writing."
The floor manager was standing within earshot of us. I walked over to him and politely suggested that he focus a little more on managing his sales associates.
I find it bizarre that a store would be paranoid of customers doing a little comparison shopping while they browse. It's every more bizarre that a sales person would risk their commission by irritating a potential sale like that.