Some of us have been living in China for decades, some of us for only a week. Either way, we have all been in that situation where we need to haggle and barter for something at some point. Want that Burberry scarf, but deciding that 100 Euro seems a tad excessive? Haggle with a guy at the Pearl Market then! Do you want that new Prada bag but you are currently on an unpaid internship? Head over to Pearl market and haggle for it! Do you want to eat 串 but it feels like highway robbery since the owner will only part with them at 3rmb instead of the usual 2? (well, I suppose you don’t really need haggling for the last one, but I digress). This guide will make sure that you get the best deals and don’t get ripped off.
1. Don’t Let Them Know You’re a Tourist
I know many negotiations that begin with, “where are you from?”. If you answer any country other than China, the opposing haggler will know that you are a rich mark. A few safe answers to give can be.
Pinyin: Nǐ cóng nǎlǐ lái?
English: Where are you from?
Pinyin: Wǒ zhù zài běijīng. Wǒ zài zhèlǐ shàngxué.
English: I live in Beijing, I go to school here.
2. Always Get Them to Offer You a Price First
Whether you want a scarf or a bag, you should never offer them a price first. You always want to start negotiations with the other side giving the first figure. Often a merchant will say:
Pinyin: Nǐ shuō gè jià ba
English: You tell me what you think it’s worth
Pinyin: Nǐ gàosù wǒ
English: You tell me
3. Don’t Agree With Them That it Looks Good
A common trick known amongst clothing salesman is to tell you that you look good in such and such.
A merchant might say;
Pinyin: Nǐ chuān tā fēicháng piàoliang
English: You look very beautiful in it
English: So beautiful
And you might very well be inclined to agree with them. Remember, however, that in haggling shops they want to figure out your bottom line. You should not let them know that you want something, even if you do want it!
Pinyin:Hái kěyǐ ba
English: It’s alright
English: It’s So So
Pinyin: Wǒ kàn qǐlái hěn pàng
English: I look fat in it
4. Don’t Haggle For Fun
Although customs might be different in other countries, haggling in China demonstrates an intent to buy. If you simply want to browse, you are free to do so.
5. Don’t Buy At the First Stall You Visit
This might seem contradictory to suggestion 4, but it isn’t. As long as you don’t initiate the haggling, it’s alright. When you come to a market, and you see something you like, you should realize two things:
- The stalls are organized so that all the shoe sellers are together; all the Prada sellers are together and so forth.
- All the stalls source their goods from the same factory, and so they have the same bottom line as their neighbors. With this in mind, if you visit a stall and you see something you like, you can ask the owner for the price, and so long as you don’t give a return price, it’s okay.
Pinyin: Zhège bāo duōshǎo qián
English: How much for this bag
Pinyin: Zhège bāo 5000 yuán
English: This bag is 5000 RMB
Pinyin: Tài guìle wǒ kěyǐ gěi nǐ 500 yuán
English: Too expensive, I can offer 500 RMB
The merchant will offer you their response price. Remember to set your own bottom line (say 1000 yuan). The merchant will offer maybe 2000 yuan. Then you respond with say 750 yuan. Somewhere when you get relatively close to your bottom line, pretend to walk out and say something along the lines of…
Pinyin: Tài guì liǎo bùxiǎng yàole
English: Too expensive, I don’t want it.
If they cannot make a profit, they will let you go (and probably curse you and 18 generations of your ancestors, but you shouldn’t take it too seriously, you can ask me in PM what this particular insult is)
If they stop you, then congratulations, since you picked up a Prada bag at nada prices, yay.
If not, then you have an idea of what the bottom line of the merchants is. You can repeat this process at another stall selling the same product, and if the results are similar, then you should have a solid idea of what prices they will sell at. If this is still above your bottom line, you can give up the chase.
The other option is to go get a coffee, take a break, or check out another section of the shopping centre and come back in 30 minutes to the same stall you visited before and offer them your bottom line again. If they take it, yay, if not, oh well.