Bargaining with the Best of 'Em

Beijing Travel Blog

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Mandy, one of the women I met on the overnight train to Beijing, adopted me for the day on Tuesday and took me to a wholesale market where locals shop.  (I got a whole manner of double-takes; it's definitely not advertised to foreigners and Mandy said I was a very rare sight indeed.)  It's a massive complex consisting of several buildings, and each "type" of item is in its own area.  In other words, there's an entire floor of one building dedicated to underwear and socks and pajamas, another for knickknacks, another for menswear, etc.  Vendors are sorted by product.  Which works well for the customer, because you wander from stall to stall looking at a whole variety of the same thing, and can use so much choice and competition to your favor when bargaining.  And hoo boy did we bargain.

Mandy told me to be discreet, and not show too much interest in anything, and certainly not interact with any of the vendors myself.  The foreigner markup is quite steep.  (300%? 500%?  It's up there.)  So I'd find something I liked, use my best poker face, and convey my interest to her while looking at something else entirely.  She'd then inquire after the price (with me seemingly disinterested and looking elsewhere), bargain them down to a reasonable amount, and then we'd drop all pretense and dig through until we found what we wanted, and as many as we wanted.  Enter more bargaining, and she'd get their lowest offer.  At this point they realize I'm involved, and are RABID for the American dollars.  The lowest offer was usually pretty damn good (since she had previously weaseled them down without their realizing I was involved), but after two of these go-rounds I figured why not get them lower still.  So I'd sit there and mull it over, ask her in English to get them lower, she'd translate and they'd say no, licking their chops and salivating over me, and I'd put up a show and give it a good think-over, and then say no thanks.  Reach for my coat, grab up my bag, and "ok ok!" and we'd have ourselves a deal.  We were GOOD.  One woman was SCANDALIZED we got her down so low, and a girl who had stopped to watch us work over this particular vendor told me she had never seen her go so low.  Ever.

We made out like BANDITS.  I went in thinking I'd buy some socks and underwear, and came out with a MASSIVE hefty garbage bag absolutely stuffed to the gills with a whole manner of goodies.  It's requiring pretty much all of my self restraint not to go back.  Without Mandy I probably couldn't get them to a fraction of the price.  But still.  This is China.  Things are CHEAP.  And I've been known to have something of a shopping problem.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  The only thing missing was my mom and her sisters.  They'd go NUTS in that place.
mosted says:
Was that building near the Tiāntán Temple?
Posted on: Jan 08, 2013
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photo by: Deats