The Radical Travel Guide to Beijing, China: Bargaining tips

When shopping in Beijing, especially in markets, remember that most every price is negotiable. Here are some suggestions about bargaining in Beijing.

Bargaining is an acceptable practice
While most items in China are relatively cheap, bargaining is a tradition. So don't forget to bargain.

Don't feel bad about bargaining

Just as items sold in Beijing markets are relatively cheap to acquire they are also relatively cheap to produce. Listed prices are generally much higher than salespeople expect to receive. So don't feel bad about bargaining.

Ask for the Chinese price

Foreigners are especially susceptible to the aggressive tactics of Chinese salespeople unless they know how to play the bargaining game. After viewing the listed price of an item you wish to purchase make sure to ask for the price offered to the Chinese - you don't want the foreigner price. This is one way to communicate to your salesperson that you understand the bargaining game and you know that foreigners and Chinese are given different opening prices.

Determining the right price for an item
Pay careful attention to how much local Chinese are paying. They have a better idea how much items should cost than you do. Alternatively, many shops in Beijing sell the same or similar items. So you can always browse other stores to determine the right price.

A good rule of thumb
Assuming you are bargaining for an item, you should consider offering 5% - 10% of the listed price as your opening position. The salesperson will probably tell you this is unacceptable and offer you a counterproposal much closer to a reasonable purchase price. If you think the counterproposal is too high start walking away. This might lead to an even lower price from your salesperson.

Returning to purchase
If you want to buy an item but are unhappy with the current price you could always leave the shop and return later in the day. Typically, salespeople are more amenable to reducing prices as closing time approaches.

If salespeople are selling, they are making a profit
If salespeople are selling to you, they are making money off you - and possibly a huge profit from your sale. So don't forget to bargain!

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June 8, 2005 | Permalink

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