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. Eileen writes...
I've spent 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
Learn your numbers
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.
Happy bargaining, ladies!
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
- 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 dollars.
- Pack a pocket battery
calculator which should come in handy when
bargaining. For faster approximate calculations make up your
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
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
(From Journeywoman files,Dr. Jane Liedtke, and The Treasures
and Pleasures of China, Impact Guides.)
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