Buy One, Get One? Forget that, I’m hooked on bargaining.
Last weekend, a fellow expat friend in Beijing took us around town for some Western-Style breakfast and a tour of the Sanlitun (NE of the city-center with lots of foreigners) region of the city. After a peanut butter and banana french toast breakfast, we wandered around and he showed us some of the best places to eat and drink in Beijing. Another highlight was the brief visit to a major market in the city… a five-story paradise for finding cheap knockoffs that in most cases look nothing like the real thing.
I was thrilled. My kind of shopping. Sales racks were my best friend in the US and here was a place where the price on the tag was just a starting point.
Luckily, our friend gave us some super-helpful pointers to get us started down the fun path to bargaining for the best deal. Here’s a conversation I had with a shopkeeper about my new watch, with the advice from our friend in italics.
The shop owners will always start exorbitantly high.
Indeed, the watch… Shop owner: “I give to you for 800, because I like you” (that’s 800RMB, roughly $130 USD),
Me: “800!!!!! No, no, no, that’s WAY too much. I can’t possibly give you that much!”
No matter what they say, start crazy low when you reply. Aim for no more than 20-25% of their first quote as a final price.
Shop owner: “no, this is a good price! Ok, but I like you so I give to you for….(taps on calculator)….750!”
Me: “you barely went down at all! No, I think….(tapping on calculator)…150 is better.” (again, this is RMB, about $25 USD, which was still probably way too much for a not-so-name-brand watch).
Shop owner: “150?!?!?! No, that is not possible! I would never sell that low. You make me cry!”
Don’t be afraid to walk away.
Me: ” oh, ok, well I suppose I will look somehwere else.” and then walking away.
Shop owner, after I get five steps away: “wait, lady, no, please, I give you good deal, please. Ok, how about (taps on calculator)… 600? Just because you are my friend.”
Again, this is 600RMB, which is about $100 USD.
Me: “oh no! You’re still too high! Of course, you know I will not pay THAT much”.
Be nice and make them like you. The “we are friends” investment goes both ways.
Me: “I really want to help you sell something, and I love this watch. It is so beautiful and will look so nice every time I wear it. (I admire it again) Now please, you know my price and you know I love it, how about 150?”
Shop owner: “nooooo, you’re killing me! I cannot possibly sell that low!”
They will try to wear you down, but don’t budge on your original price. If you do, it will be seen as a sign of weakness and they will not go any lower.
Me: “ok, I guess I don’t want it anymore.”
(we do this back and forth a few times. Eventually I wear her down to 250)
Shop owner: “ok ok ok ok, I give you final offer of 250.”
Me, pulling out money: “make it 200, and I’ll make a deal.”
Shop owner, with a big sigh: “well, I can do 200, but I make no money! You are so good at bargaining!”
And then I pay her the $32USD and walk off with my brand new watch, feeling victorious.
Now, I know that what I bought is still a total rip off. It’s a fake and is probably nothing like any of the real watches that I could buy for $5000 USD at my local high end luxury store. But the bargaining was the real fun here, and even if my new watch lasts for just a few days, it was worth the experience. I still think the watch looks nice, and I came in with zero expectations for buying anything nice- it at least tells time and looks fancy enough. Not like I’ll be proudly wearing it into the real store whose name was on it anytime soon.
Apparently this way of purchasing things is everywhere in China. As long as you are not in a proper-name-brand store (like The Gap, Tiffany&co, or Audi), you can bargain. We did it again buying earmuffs on our cold walk through town today. The owner started at 125 RMB (an outrageous $21 USD), and I got her down to 25 RMB, a more reasonable $4 USD. She acted like I was ruining her day, but it’s all part of the game of bargaining.