The Art of Bargaining in China
What I want to write today about is the art of bargaining. In my last blog about Shanghai I told you about those huge fake markets and that you can get great stuff for a cheap price. Ultimately it ain’t that easy. To get a good quality of whatever you want to get to a good price you first need to have an eye for the good quality. But second and most importantly you will need to master the art of bargaining.
Of course you can use your bargaining tactics only with independent traders in China. On the one side these independent traders are open to bargaining which is good for you. On the other side they want to use it to their own advantage so you better never believe their first offer. These Chinese believe in what they call “The Myth of the Rich LaoWai”. It means that in their mind every foreigner that comes to them to buy something is a rich guy that they will try to get the most money from. So what can you do about that?
Don’t feel guilty!
First you need to get your mindset clear. People who bargain for the first time often feel some form of guilt inside of them. They think they do something wrong. Throw that feeling away and be ruthless and shameless instead. Remember – They will not sell to you unless they are also making profit!
Have a mental maximum price before you start to bargain and don’t push over this limit. There are plenty of stalls selling exactly the same items so if you don’t get your price in the first one… move on and try the next! In your mind you have to be clear that this is just a game for both parties involved, if the seller becomes ‘angry’ or ‘sad’ just play along.. its all part of the game! Even if you totally fall in love with the shoes or coat you just saw, do not express too much interest and point out to the flaws of the item. If there are no flaws, make some up. If you act and think in this way you have the mental edge and have already won.
The Basic Bargaining Process
After a few times of bargaining with those sellers there is a certain routine you will evolve. Basically a lot of those bargaining processes boil down the same things and there are certain patterns you can use:
When they tell you the first price you should act shocked. I pretend that I have never heard something so ridiculous before. Sometimes I will just unscrupulously laugh at them.
Then you should wait… don’t make an offer just yet, wait and they will make another offer. For this you will give them more of the same open mouthed, gasping expressions!
After you have regained your pokerface make your first VERY low counter offer. At this point the seller will act just as shocked as you and tell you this is below his buying price. Don’t believe it – it is just a trick.
If you negotiate hard now you will usually come closer and closer to your estimated price.
If not, you still have one more ace in the hole – the walkaway! You will totally resolute turn around and walk away (slowly) from the stall and in a lot of cases they will scream for you, they will run after you shouting ‘ok, ok’ grabbing for you, they will basically do anything to keep you there. And in the end they go down to your price. You win… and so do they.
So go to those markets and learn the art of bargaining. And remember – it is just a game.