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Beijing Tips - Bargaining

Bargaining is the rule here in Beijing.  At least, at the many markets and back-street clothes stalls.  Bargaining is an art and if you are unfamiliar with it we'd like to offer you some advice.  The tips here are Beijing specific but may help you at any place in the world where bargaining is practiced.

DO NOT say how much you want to pay for an item unless its near the end of the process.  Always try and drop the seller's offering price as much as possible before opening your mouth with a price.

DO throw out really low prices like 10 RMB as long as you have a big smile.

DO keep smiling throughout.  The seller is much more likely to continue bargaining with a happy smiling face.  Getting angry rarely gets you the price you want.

BE AWARE the initial price offered by the seller is usually at least 40% over the general price acceptable.  It can be up to 500% over.

DO have an idea of what the item is worth.  You can ask Chinese friends, hotel staff, ex-pats or look at our rough guide below.  This is very general and is based on a market like Xiu Shui.  You may not be able to get the lowest prices stated at Xiu Shui, especially on a weekend when there are lots of tourists around.

Item (all fake brands) Price range (in RMB)
Pants/Trousers 50 - 120
Shirts/Tops 40 - 120
Jackets (non leather) 60 - 200
Shoes 30 - 150
Watches 30 - 300
DVD 6 - 20 (max)
VCD/CD 4 - 15 (max)

DO walk away once you've given them your final price, even before.  If you get called back, you know you are close.  If you do not get called back, go to a similar stall and try again with a slightly higher price.

The Process (illustrated)

The English being spoken by the seller will often consist of "cheaper", "how much you pay", "good quality", "no profit", "highest price".  Numbers are tapped out on a giant calculator to avoid confusion.

Your best bet is to keep repeating the phrase "cheaper" to them as much as you can before revealing your price.

Decide on your price based on the chart above, how much you like it, and your perception of the quality of the item. 

Once you've decided the price, you then tell them a figure about 40% of the price you're willing to pay, then go up in 5% increments until they give in.

A Successful Beijing Bargaining Example

You (looking at a nice pair of fake Calvin Klein pants) 

How much ?

Seller 500
You (You look and decide the pants are worth about 100 to you)

Cheaper !

Seller How much you want to pay ?
  (never answer this straight away, just look the pants over many times, ask why such a high price, remind them its a fake, find holes etc.)
You Cheaper !
Seller 300
You 40
Seller No. No ... these are real Calvin Klein pants, good quality ..  280
You 50
Seller 200
You (laughing)


Seller Ok, ok, last price, last price 160
You Ok, ok, last price 70
Seller These good pants must be at least 100
You 80
Seller No, no, sorry, no profit.
You Ok, sorry  ...  (start walking away)
Seller (calls you back, put items in bag)

Ok 90 !

You Ok 85  !!
Seller Ok sold... wow,  you good negotiator.

You look at the above table and think, well, if things go this well I will have really gotten a deal.  The fact is, if the seller still has a smile on his face, you haven't got the best deal possible.  Our resident expert negotiator colleague will leave the seller with a look of real pain on his face.  In the above example you could have got them for 50... but what the hell, you had fun and you got a great deal by western standards.  Also, you'll be happy to know the seller and their family can eat a little better tonight.

Just a word on how NOT to Bargain.  Here are some of the common mistake deals we've seen.

A Bad Beijing Bargaining Example 1

You (looking at a nice pair of fake Calvin Klein pants) 

How much ?

Seller 500
You Ok. Great. Thanks.

 As Homer Simpson would say ...  "Doh !".


A Bad Beijing Bargaining Example 2

You (looking at a nice pair of fake Calvin Klein pants) 

How much ?

Seller 500
You (Ha ! thinking you are going to show him !)


Seller 450
You 425
Seller Ok. Deal. You're killing me !

The way to avoid the situation in Example 2 is to have a much better idea of what the item is worth.  Remember, once you state any price, the only place you can go from there is UP !




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Bargain/haggle   a great price !

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