Useful things to know in China when bargaining in flea markets to get the most out of your money.
As with many other non-Western countries, most shops in China have negotiable prices for their goods. Bargaining is part of their culture – customers are expected to bargain in flea markets. Without this knowledge, many foreigners are fooled with attractive-looking prices that have been severely inflated above actual market price. The following tips are ideal for shopping in China, but some are also applicable to markets in other countries.
7. Shop around.
Do not buy an item at the first stall you see. There are always several stalls that sell the same items, and the ones at the entrances typically inflate their starting prices. Walk around for a while first to get a general sense of starting prices.
6. Think in RMB.
What would have been a great deal in one country may be a rip-off in China. Think in terms of Chinese currency relative to every-day living costs. For example, a meal that costs $1 USD in China would have cost $7 in the US.
5. Set a price ceiling.
When you finally see an item you want, come up with the maximum amount that you’re willing to pay for it. Start the negotiation at a lower price and slowly build to that point, but do not cross that number.
4. “But that other place…”
When negotiating for a good, vendors often tell you that their products are unmatched in quality and justify their prices. Simply state that you had come from another stall selling the same item for a lower price, and that you were looking for an even lower amount.
3. “But my friend…”
Similar to tip number four, except the appeal is towards a friend rather than another seller. Tell the vendor that your friend bought the same item for the price you’ve given him.
2. Speak the language.
Even if it’s only a few words or sentences, your efforts show that you’re not merely there to shop. A friend of mine said in Chinese, “I am American, can I get a discount?” The vendor laughed at his accent and happily lowered the price.
1. Walk away.
When all else fails, walk away. Vendors often chase after you if the price was indeed reasonable. Their stubbornness was merely a deceptive tactic to make it appear that you had set an unrealistic price. If they didn’t come after you, then the price was actually too low.
In the end, it’s all fun and games for both the buyer and seller at flea markets. Don’t take the process too seriously, have patience, and enjoy your new goods!