How to do bargaining in China

Bargaining is common in China and is pretty much a game, one of which that Chinese even do among themselves, and not just with foreigners. Aside from fast food shops and chain super market stores, you can literally bargain for all and everything, sometimes even in department stores where there are private sellers selling their goods.

For Chinese, they want to see what kind of a good deal they can get, both on the buying and selling side of things. Doing so gives them a sense of accomplishment, almost like the kind Westerners get when they land a good travel deal that is cheaper than what a travel agent could provide, so accepting most things as the final price up front without bargaining would be more weird than getting into a debate with a shop owner.

Inevitably, when you ask any storeowner or shopkeeper how much an item is, either through Chinese or some kind of communication like hand gestures, they are likely to tell you a price that is on average 3-5 times higher than what you would normally pay. To meet such an occurrence, respond with an exaggerated look as if the owner is crazy for selling that price and if you speak Chinese, tell them that the same product can be found for about a fifth of the price down the road. Note: Chinese do this all the time, and it’s more of a bargaining technique rather than trying to cheat the owner with a lie.

Upon doing so the shopkeeper will say something along the lines of “No no no, this is special for xxx reasons and you will not find such quality for xxx reasons etc. Following this you need to say something about how you can understand their viewpoints but that you are just shocked to see the pricing so differently. At this point, the owner is likely to drop the price; however, it’s not going to be the price you know you can get it for.

Following this, take a bit of a longer look at the product, whether it be a tea pot or whatever, and make a look like you are really unsure and that you are still skeptical. The shopkeeper will notice and will definitely tell you another reason why the product is good and that you are getting a great deal. However, you need to hold your ground, put the product down and then say you are likely to go to another store. At this point, the shopkeeper is likely to drop the price again.

You are almost there or in some cases the price may be god enough to suit your needs. But here is the real trick, and it works most of the time-Tell them that you like the product and would buy it if they could match the price at the “other store” but if not you are walking. The shopkeeper will again come back with more reasons why you should buy it and if so, begin walking away. By the time you are about to leave the shopkeeper should say something or wave you down to tell you that s/he can accept your price. Some shopkeepers may wait until you are even slightly out of the store so be aware.

Be careful though of how far you walk from the store as if you walk too far away you will get out of the shopkeeper’s reach. Pretend to wait around the entrance for a text or light up a cigarette etc.

If the shopkeeper didn’t catch you at that point, I’m sorry to say that either s/he is too stubborn or that maybe your price was indeed too low. Is s/he didn’t catch the last bite you can stick your head back in the store and offer one more price that is between you and the shopkeeper’s, and maybe you’ll get near the pricing you want.

What is funny about this whole situation is that both sides are very serious and looked very annoyed the whole time. The shopkeeper especially will make sad/scared faces as if selling the product cheaper will bankrupt them. However, do not pay attention to this and do not believe it, as it is all part of the act. Really, I can’t stress this enough during the whole process.

In most cases, by the end of the transaction the shopkeeper is back to smiling because they are happy to make a sale and all of a sudden that stern looking person has smiles on their face wishing you to have a good day. If this seems messed up, well, perhaps so if you think of it that way. Or, you can accept the fact that that’s the way things go over there and knowing what to expect and how to react is what matters.

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