Greetings from China! I’ve been here for about two weeks now, and for the most part things are pretty great. I do miss actually being able to see the sky though... oh well, all the delectably delicious diarrhea-inducing food more than makes up for it.
I’ve been trying to put out one post a month to keep things up on this blog. I’m working on an entry that’s a little different, but it’s not quite ready yet. I’ve also been taking some time to finally continue chipping away at the monster that is my first draft of a novel. With said mini and not-so-mini projects in place, I just haven’t been in the mood to write a full-length blog post. But I do have a small… lesson? How-to? to share… just to tide me over to the next month.
We took part in a tour for seven out of the eight days we were in Beijing. Two of those seven days were spent with a hilarious furnace of a tour guide – let’s call him Ling – who alternated between teaching us Chinese history and making us laugh so hard we had tears mingled with sweat dripping down our faces (hey, every day in the itinerary consisted of walking for ages, and summer in China is like being imprisoned in a sauna, so don’t judge). On our second day with him, he took us to the infamous Silk Street.
Silk Street (Chinese: 秀水街; literally meaning “beautiful water Street”), aka Silk Market or Silk Market Street, is a shopping center in Chaoyang District, Beijing, that accommodates over 1700 retail vendors, notorious among international tourists for their wide selection of counterfeit designer brand apparel.
Now, everything in Silk Street is ridiculously overpriced but most Westerners have no idea how to haggle. Ling decided to help us out by teaching us the basics. I have no idea if this is the most effective way of haggling, but we had a ton of fun testing his method out.
1. Examine the product.
The salespeople will be bending over backwards to convince you that their product is worth buying. At this point, check out the quality and ask any questions you have about things not regarding the price. Right off the bat, you’re just an interested customer. Don’t even talk about cost right now
2. Ask about the price.
Once you are satisfied that you now know everything there is to know about the product, you can start the haggling process. Ask them how much it is. They may say something like: “The marked price is ABC, but since you seem to be a really nice person, I’ll sell it to you for only XYZ!” Obviously, XYZ is still ridiculously overpriced.
3. Never give them the lowest price.
You: *admiring a shirt* how much for this shirt?
Salesperson: That? 600 yuan.
You: That’s too much… how about 100?
Salesperson: Ok, sold!
What are you left thinking? ‘Shoot, they gave in too easily… that means they were willing to sell at an even lower price point.’ But by this point, it’s too late… you won’t be able to lower the price any more, simply because you overestimated the product. Lesson: don’t ever let them figure out how much you’re willing to pay! Knowledge is power.
4. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
This is where the acting comes in.
You: How much for this shirt?
Salesperson: 600 yuan.
You: What? That pricing is crazy! I’d better go look somewhere else. *start to talk away*
Guaranteed, the salesperson will drag you back. “No no, don’t go! We can talk about the price. Come back, come back!”
5. Act as if you’re interested in the product, and it’s only the price that’s making your decisions difficult.
When haggling, it is too late to start commenting on the qualities of their products. You can add some artistic flair to your performance, but in the end you’re trying to convey that you’re a customer who’s very interested in the product itself, but the price isn’t making the sale possible. If you’re there with another person, feel free to play up the drama, with one person pleading that it’s a great product and the other dragging them away saying that the price is crazy. Remember: the quality of the product is not negotiable, only the price is. If you act uninterested in the product, the salesperson will lose interest in you!
6. Don’t buy the product at the first store.
If you continue repeating steps #4 and #5, you’ll begin to feel the ‘bottom price’ of the salesperson. This is when their reaction to you walking away turns from “No, come back and talk!” to “If you can’t meet this price, just go ahead and leave, I won’t stop you.” That’s good… you’re finally beginning to see the actual price range of the product! But don’t stop here; walk away. 99% of the time you’ll see the same product a few doors down… and if you don’t, you can always come back to the first store to claim your prize for the last price they screamed at you!
7. At the next store, use the ‘bottom price’ you learned.
Here is where the actual purchase probably lies. You know how low they’re willing to go for the product, so give the salesperson a price slightly under what was just offered to you by the first store. They’ll give you a better deal, and if not, you already know some place cheaper!