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Travel Tips: How To Bargain in China

2016-08-11 15:12:44Share:

  Even though the prices in China is cheaper from the prices in another country, but one thing you should remember : most of the stuff sold in China is a counterfeit product. It may looks similar, but the quality (and especially DURABILITY) is lower than the original ones. So, whenever you gonna buy in China, NEVER FORGET TO BARGAIN.


  If you are a foreigner, most of the shopkeepers and street merchants in China will try to trick you with unreasonable prices. Especially if you looks like someone from US or Europe, and can't speak good Chinese. Last week, one of my American friend got tricked. He ended up buying an autumn coat (made by an unknown Chinese brand) for 1700 Yuan. Meanwhile, a Chinese speaking Indonesian friend bought the same coat for only 200 Yuan last winter. That's what happened if you are too lazy to bargain, or don't know how to bargain in China.


  Anyway, in China, except inside a big supermarket where the price has been clearly listed (like Wallmart), you can ALWAYS bargain. In any places, even some branded shops. Yes, trust me, I have tried to bargain in ZARA (inside a big shooping mall in Shijiazhuang city, Hebei province) and it works. Let me rephrase that, you HAVE TO bargain, if you want to pay for a reasonable price. Yes, this is one of the downside of being a foreigner in China.


  Bargaining (讨价还价) in China, is not hard, if you know HOW. And this is what I'm going to tell you in this blog post.



  First of all, before you bargain, you should at least know how much does the item cost approximately. You can first look it up in online shops (such as Taobao.com) because the price listed there is the real and reasonable ones. How do I know? Those online shops are for Chinese and Chinese usually knows how much the real price is. Duh.


  But of course, I don't expect all of us foreigners to be able to read Chinese and do a research on Chinese websites before buying something from the shops.


  So, how do we GUESS the real price if we don't know how much the real price is?


  There are two ways...


  1. If you speak good Chinese and have Asian looks


  The real price is usually 25-30% of the first price that the merchant offers you. For example, if the merchant said that the price is 100 Yuan, there is a big chance that the real price is around 25 Yuan. So, if you want to bargain, start from 20-25 Yuan, then raise your offer gradually and settle down in around 28-35 Yuan.


  2. If you doesn't speak good Chinese and have Western looks


  He will try to trick you by giving you a very high price in the beginning. The real price is usually 10% of the first price that the merchant offers you. For example, if the merchant said that the price is 100 Yuan, there is a big chance that the real price is around 10 Yuan. So if you want to bargain, start from 10 Yuan, then raise your offer gradually and settle down in around 12-20 Yuan. If you can't speak any Chinese, you can try to bargain using calculator or cellphone.


  Okay, so now we know how to guess how much the real price is. The next question is...how to bargain?


  1. The first time you offer your price, don't make it too high. For example, if you want to buy it for around 30 Yuan, you have to start from 10-15 Yuan. If you start from 20 or 25 Yuan, in the end you will ended up buying it for higher than 35 Yuan. Start from the lowest reasonable price you think is right, and go higher slowly.


  2. Don't express too much affection on the items that you want to buy. If the merchant knows that you like the item and want to buy it so badly, he won't lower the price at all.


  3. If the merchant insist and doesn't want to lower the price at all, just leave from the shop. Usually, if the first price that you offer is reasonable, he WILL definitely call you back and then offer you a slightly lower price than the first one.


  Let me teach you my personal bargain trick. I called this one "The Good Guy and The Bad Guy" (80% success rate)


  1. Don't go into the shops alone, take a friend along with you and let him be "The Bad Guy" while you be "The Good Guy"


  2. Ask for the price of the item to the merchant. After he tells you the price, you try to bargain with the lowest reasonable price that I've taught you above. For example he said 100 Yuan and you say 30 Yuan.


  3. The merchant will definitely refuse and maybe he will offer you a small discount for 5-10 Yuan. But still, 90 Yuan is too much. You have to argue a little and insist on your price here.


  4. At this time, let your friend join the discussion and say in front of the merchant "It's too expensive. Let's just go, you don't need the item anyway" (If he could speak in Chinese, it's better) Then let him pull you away, forcing you to leave.


  5. At this kind of situation, usually (90% possibility) the merchant will call you back once more and then give you a new deal. Maybe around 70-80 Yuan. But still, 70 Yuan is too much.


  6. Refuse this price and let your friend pull you away one more time. In most of the cases (80%) possibility, the merchant will call you back one more time and give you a slightly lower price, maybe around 40-50 Yuan. And this is the LOWEST price he could give you. Usually, he couldn't go any lower from this. If you really want the item, you should settle down with this price.


  7. The success rate is around 80%, depending on your luck and how good your acting is. Usually the final price will be around 30-50% of the first price that he give you.


  One more thing you should know. If you go shopping in a famous tourism place like Wangfujing Street in Beijing, the first price they gave you will be so high and unreasonable. Once, I tried to buy a Crocs sandals (fake ones, Chinese brand) the merchant tried to sell it to me for 1600 Yuan! What? Is it made from gold??? After some bargaining, yelling, and a little drama, in the end I managed to buy it for only 34 YUAN! Crazy, right?


  You should also be extra careful if you want to buy some paintings or tea leaves. A painting that the merchant tried to sold you for 2000 Yuan could be worth for only 20 Yuan in the eyes of curators. If the merchant can speak little English, there is a bigger chance that he was quite experienced at doing business with foreigners and there is a bigger chance that he will try to trick you.


  Also be careful if you're paying with 50 Yuan or 100 Yuan bills. Some merchants will secretly swap it with a fake bills of his own, and then return it to you, pretending that he won't accept your money because it was fake. There are so many ways to do this money scam (check http://wikitravel.org/en/Beijing for more info, it's on SCAM section). The best way to avoid this is to keep a close watch on your money when you are paying with 50 Yuan or 100 Yuan. Don't get distracted.


  I hope the informations that I've shared here could be beneficial for all of us here. I, myself, often bargain using the methods I mentioned above and it works, most of the time.


  BONUS : Some useful words to bargain in Chinese


  - This (这个 -Zhège)


  - That (那个 -Nàgè)


  - Here (这里 -Zhèlǐ)


  - There (那里 -Nàlǐ)


  - How much is the price? (多少钱 - Duōshǎo qián)


  - It's too expensive! (太贵了 - Tài guìle)


  - Please reduce the price (请给我便宜一点吧 -Qǐng gěi wǒ piányi yīdiǎn ba)


  - Okay (好的 -Hǎo de)


  - I want to buy (我想买 - Wǒ xiǎng mǎi)


  - I don't want to buy (我不买 -Wǒ bú mǎi)


  - I want (要 -Yào)


  - I don't want (不要 -Bùyào)


  - Let us go (我们走吧 -Wǒmen zǒu ba)

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