Sunday, December 27th, 2009...7:01 am

Bargaining in Beijing

Jump to Comments

You can read a lot of bargaining tips online to assure you are not getting ripped off (i.e. your first counter-offer should be a quarter of the amount the seller gives you).  The one piece of advice I wish I saw on every site was to tell me to enter these supermarkets with balls of steel and to never let go of them.  If one does not hold their ground when haggling with these inhuman shopkeepers, you will either find yourself withdrawing unnecessary amounts of cash from the ATM, or just flat-out making a fool of yourself.  It also helps to know what you want to buy and how much you intend to pay.  For instance, I wanted to buy a pair of basketball shoes because Ben bought a pair of Adidas for 70RMB (about $10).  I thought I could get a pair of baller-kicks for under 100RMB, so I went and sought my own adventure.  The following is a textual depiction of how I bought a pair of yellow and black Air Jordans from these Wicked Witches of the East.

(David is walking through the market when a 5’3″ woman grabs his arm and pinches his skin with her 3-inch faux nails)

Demon Seller:  Hello you look-ah for shoes?  We have very good quality shoe for very good quality price.  Come inside my shop.  (David walks inside the shop, clenching his arm)

DS:  Which one you like-ah?  All good quality.

Me:  I like those yellow ones.  Can I try them on?

DS:  Of course.  You look-ah Chinese.  You speak-uh Chinese?

Me:  No, I’m Filipino.

DS:  You look-uh like Chinese.  (David tries on the shoes and continues to b.s. with the seller.  He likes the shoes and they fit well.  The battle begins)

Me:  I like these.  How much are they?

DS:  Okay.  These shoes.  Very good quality.  The best-ah.  (She takes out a calculator) Original price is…(types 1,400 RMB).  But because you look-uh Chinese, I give you good price-uh (types 1,200RMB)

Okay, so at this moment I freak out in horror, and I make sure my face shows it.  My plan of buying a pair of shoes for under 100RMB is kaput.  But I stay true to myself.

Me:  Wow, I think that is too expensive.  I cannot afford that.

DS:  Okay, you give me your best price-uh.  (David types in 30RMB.  The Demon Seller looks at him blankly, then looks at the calculator, then back at David, and begins to laugh).  What, you pay in Euro???  That’s impossible price-uh for me.  I give you four numbers and you give me only two.  That price impossible.

Me:  Okay, 35 RMB.

DS:  (LOL) C’mon, impossible.  These shoe, best quality.  Make just like American shoes.

Me:  Um, I think the shoes are good quality, but not the best quality.  So I don’t think they are worth 1,200 RMB.  I think they are worth 35 RMB.

DS:  Hahahah, you are very joke-ah.  I don’t think you want these shoes.

Me:  No, no, no.  I do want the shoes.  But can you please make your price lower.

DS:  Okay, okay.  I give you this price-uh (types 1,150 on the calculator)

Me:  No way.  That’s just way too expensive.  I think you “joke-ah.”  I’ll give you 40 RMB.

DS:  Impossible.  I lose money.

Me:  Fine, 45 RMB.

DS:  I don’t think you want these shoes.

Me:  I do want these shoes, but your price is too expensive.  Nobody will buy these shoes for that much.  I’ll give you 50RMB.

DS:  Impossible.  You really joke-uh.

Me:  60 RMB.

DS:  (LOL and turns away).  I think you go somewhere else.

Okay, so at this point I feel like I’m losing this battle.  I’m thinking that I’m going to have to pay more than 100 RMB.  Maybe like 300 or 400 RMB.  I don’t want that to happen.  Even the nearby shopkeepers are listening to our conversation and hackling my outrageous efforts.  But I continue to dig through my guts.  It’s time for these tables to turn.

Me:  Okay, maybe I will go somewhere else.  But I know you don’t want me to.  Nobody is buying your shoes.  I am your only customer right now.  I know I can go somewhere else and buy these shoes cheaper.

DS:  Okay, you go-ah.

Me:  I don’t want to because I think you are pretty and I want to buy these shoes from you (I, unfortunately, actually said this).

DS:  Oh, you joke-ah.

Me:  I don’t.  I’ll give you 70 RMB.

DS:  Impossible.  My final price is 1,000.

Me:  80RMB.

DS:  C’mon, I lose money.

Me:  I lose money too if I pay that much.  These shoes are not worth 1,000RMB.  These shoes are worth 80 RMB.  You will lose money if I don’t buy these shoes from you, because nobody else will come here and buy these shoes.  You have many many many shoes in your store.  I don’t think people are buying shoes from you.  But I want to buy shoes from you.  Please make your price lower.

DS:  Okay.  You give your best maximum price-uh.

Me:  90RMB.

DS:  You joke-uh.

Me:  Okay, then I go.  Bye-bye.  (David stands up from the chair and proceeds to head out.  Demon Seller steps in front of him and puts her hand on his chest)

DS:  Okay, I give you 900.

Me:  Too expensive.  I am leaving now.

DS:  No no no.  You give me best maximum price.

Me;  Okay…my best price is 100RMB.

DS:  C’mon, I lose money.  800.

Me:  No, bye-bye.  (David successfully walks out the store this time.  He makes it a couple feet out and Demon Seller is not continuing to bargain, like he was told on the interent would happen if he walked away.  And just when his hopes were about to go away…)

DS:  Okay, I give you 700 RMB.

Me:  Nope.  100 RMB.

DS:  Okay, this is my final final price.  You take it or leave it okay?  (She types in 500 on the calculator)

Me:  No.  Too expensive.  I will go now.

DS:  C’mon.  Give me your best maximum price-uh.

Me:  Fine.  105RMB.

DS:  Oh you joke-uh.

Me.  Okay, then I leave.  (David walks away, this time he makes it to the stairwell.  Demons Seller yells from her store and runs after him).

DS:  Okay, 400!

Me:  No thank you.

DS:  200!

Me:  Too expensive.  Bye-bye.

DS:  Oh, you too difficult.

Me:  So are you.  Bye-bye.  (David walks away)

DS:  150!

Now, I probably should have taken this price.  But I noticed how quickly her prices went down when she got to the mid-hundreds, so I figured this should end with me paying my price.  So I continued to be “difficult.”  If I lost these shoes, so what.  I personally thought I already lost this battle just because I intended to pay way less than 100RMB.

Me:  No thank you.  (David walks through doors and is about to go down the stairs).

DS:  (In a very disgruntled and exhausted voice that also inferred defeat).  OKAY!  COME BACK!

Me:  105?

(DS nods reluctantly) DS:  You are very impossible, you know?

Me:  I know.  Thank you.

$15 Air Jordans (made and haggled for in China)

$15 Air Jordans (made, and haggled for, in China)


  • Hi David, your mom must be soooo proud!!! Hope we see each other in January. Happy New Year!

  • hahaha this is amazing!! I paid 100 bucks for a picture drawn of me in NYC a few years ago…I wish I had your bargaining skills…

  • Ha, I was thinking “these have to be AJ’s” the whole time! Awesome story Flo. You joke-uh!