So you can buy Ray Ban’s for 40 RMB (about $6 US) ?[EDIT: I ended up buying them for 20RMB]  Count me in.  This weekend I’m going on a trip to the Silk Market, a world renowned Chinese market where you can buy everything from custom suits, to silk robes, to cell phones.  I recommend you make the trip as well when you travel to Beijing.  Everything can be bargained on which can be intimidating to Westerners who are used to set prices.  I learned how to haggle the hard way in Mexico, but once you get know how you can get anything under the sun for a great price.  I’ll be filling you all in on how my trip goes, but in preparation for me and to help you out with your China travel, let’s go over some haggling basics.

Don’t accept the first or second or third price.  Maybe not even the fourth.  The vendors are very experienced at bargaining, especially with foreigners, and even if an early price sounds good, it isn’t, and there is more money to save.  Don’t think in terms of your local currency, as goods are much cheaper here and anything made in China does not have the shipping costs included in Chinese goods in the West.  Think about what is a good price in China, not what is a good price back home.  Also, keep in mind that vendors will add something to the initial price for foreigners.  Don’t take this to heart though; the vendors are just trying to sell their goods at whatever they think the item is worth to you.  Do your best to keep that number low.

Start with a lower offer then you are willing to pay.  The vendor will start high, and you should start low.  You two can meet in the middle at a price that’s acceptable to the both of you.  Be patient as this will take time.  Have an idea of the maximum price you’re willing to pay for something, and don’t let yourself go over it.  Try not to get attached to any one item, the odds are someone else will have the same thing.

Turn my (Beijing) Swag on!

Don’t be afraid to walk away.  If a vendor sees you leaving and they can offer you a better price, they probably will.  Even if they don’t, another vendor will see that you’re serious about bargaining and willing to walk away, and may give you a better price.

Remember to have fun, and that the two of you are playing a game.  If they offer an absurdly high price, don’t be afraid to start with an absurdly low price and a smile.  Don’t feel bad if they say they aren’t making a profit off of you.  If they can make a sale at a profit they will, and if they can’t make a profit they won’t.  Anything they say is part of the game, you’ll be able to tell what’s true by what they do.  When you travel to Beijing Silk Market or any other market in China, keep calm and haggle on.

Jack Li
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