Eileen Reagan, from
Brooklyn, New York has had the wonderful opportunity of actually
living in Beijing for an extended period of time. That meant
she has had to learn the ground rules for shopping in a country
that has elevated the act of bargaining to an absolute art.
the better part of the last two years in Beijing, a city that
is changing by the moment. Last week I came home in the evening
walking past a half mile of tin-shelter shops, markets and businesses.
This morning, I went there for eggs and the entire area was
leveled. These quick transitions give new meaning to the adage,
if you see something you like, buy it now. However
in China, it should be buy it right now but bargain a
Shopping in Beijing and
most of China is great fun if you are prepared to bargain and
haggle for everything, even in some of the local department
stores. Forget the international shops, their prices are fixed
and they are only for the really, really rich.
your numbers in Chinese...
begin, even though a fair amount of English is spoken
in the big cities, not knowing the Chinese words for numbers
and prices will cost you a lot of extra money. Before
you leave home, learn your numbers in Chinese. When I
go to the market, I try to listen carefully to the vendors
first price. Then I counter with, Too expensive
for me. Then the seller will say something like
"You say" which means...make me an offer. I,
then, compliment the article again, say it is much too
expensive and begin walking away. The Chinese bargaining
system has now begun.
a foreigner never, ever offer more than 25% of the originally
stated amount. Don't be afraid to insult anyone, Chinese
merchants expect you to bargain but they don't think that
you know how much you can reduce the price. (They have
no idea that you are a savvy Journeywoman) Let them make
the next move.
Expect to be quoted
at least three or four times the amount that a Chinese
person would be told, but never, ever end up actually
paying more than half. If the seller won't bargain then
try another stall. Many of the markets have venders selling
the exact material for totally different amounts. In the
final analysis, feeling satisfied that the price suits
you is all that matters.
For example, I was
quite happy to bring the "first" price of 195Y(Chinese
dollars) down to 55Y and buy myself a very pretty watch.
Then my neighbor came over with the same watch that she
had bought for 20Y. However, I didnt fret because
I paid only 200Y for my North Face jacket, while my roommate
paid 375Y for hers. Thats what makes shopping fun.
P.S. from Jane L. in Beijing: Feel free to bring
some U.S. $1's or $5's as a way to get a lower price when
shopping in markets. If you've bargained hard and still
can't get what you want, offer the $5.00 bill and then
walk away holding the money. Merchants will generally
call after you to come back. They will want the hard currency.
Beijing, stores are open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00
and sometimes 7:00 pm. Markets tend to open the same
time but have more flexible closing hours.
- Need more cash?
Banks in China are open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday
to Saturday. They close from noon to 2:00 pm for lunch
- In department
stores where you are able to use a credit card, be sure
to put the local currency sign (yuen) before the total
credit card amount so it wont be mistaken for
- Pack a pocket
battery calculator which should come in handy when
bargaining. For faster approximate calculations make
up your own mini
card with current exchange rates. i.e. One U.S. $ =
? yuen Ten U.S. $ = ? yuen
- Keep your valuables
well protected. Expect hoards of people to share sidewalk
space with you -- under these conditions, a fanny pack
is a perfect invitation to pickpockets.
in any large city one must watch their valuables and
never display large amounts of money openly. Use a neck-style
or other secure bag for passports and excess money.
Then, just carry a small amount of money in a concealed
change purse. This way you lessen the risk of being
the victim of pickpockets or "snatchers" prevalent in
the Beijing streetmarkets, and (very important)... the
vendor doesn't see a lot of money which helps your bargaining
power even more.
(From Journeywoman files,Dr. Jane Liedtke, and The
Treasures and Pleasures of China, Impact Guides.)