Chinese are experts at many things but first and foremost, they are experts at bargining. You too can bargain but you “must” know the rules. Here are the ones I know:

  • everything is up for grabs
  • assume their 1st price is outrageous (it really is)
  • assume they are out to clean your pockets (they are and it is not personal nor theivery: just business!)
  • assume that North Americans will pay more (unless you are Canadian, in which case wear something with a Canadian flag on it)
  • be physically and mentally up to the process; it is not for sissies.
  • have someone with you whom you can use for “good cop–bad cop”
  • use your own 4 function calculator (unless you don’t mind touching one that has been touched by hundreds (perhaps) thousands of other people
  • again remember it is not personal; on a DISC profile, D’s and C’s will love it; while I’s and S’s won’t
  • Now let’s assume you found the item you are interested in. To find it, you have had a hair raising taxi ride, find the market, run the gaulet of stalls, past a hundred hands reaching out to get you to come in and buy, say “Bu Yao“(don’t want) continually, and now here it is. But your eyes have given you away. You now start bargining from a disadvantage. You ask the price. Quicker than the blink of an eye or perhaps a nanosecond, a 4 function calculator appears and the type in the price in RMB’s (approximately 8 per US dollar). Now you know why you had to memorize those multiplication tables. If you did, you quickly mentally make the conversion to US dollars and realize that they are asking more than what you would pay at Nordstroms but without the service. You act shocked 😯 (you don’t even have to pretend). You whip out your clean, germ-free 4 function calculator and type in a number that would shock them. If they are not shocked, your sunk. Your still too high. You either buy at that price, up the anti by including other items or flee. If they are shocked, they will either put it away or type a new price. Usually 4 exchanges like this brings a price you can agree on or you fein leaving. If they do no follow with a lower price then you must decide to buy or leave. It is not personal.

    If you are lucky, your bargain is far better than any after Christmas sale. They wrap the prize and hand it to you with both hands. You accept it with both hands and nod. You give them the agreed upon RMB’s with both hands; they accept with both hands and nod. Sometimes they give you their card with both hands and you accept with both hands and nod. 😀 Whew!

    Now, off to the next item, and the next until you can no longer divide by 8. Oh, I forgot to mention that places like the Dirt Market have literally thousands of sellers. It is overwhelming.

    Beijing has markets–ancient and new–everywhere. Go for it.

    Dr. L

    One of the most annoying things in Beijing are the streets being covered with pasted ads. Kids routinely put them down and people who are paid to clean them up routinely come along and steam them up; so the whole process can start all over again. :(

    Ad on sidewalk

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