Buyer Beware: Bargaining and Shopping in China

2010-06-13China travel Guide

 Whenever we go traveling overseas, we always want to take a little piece of that country home, something that goes beyond the two-dimensions of a photograph. You may just be looking something to give your close friend of relative, or perhaps something a bit more extravagant for ourselves. Irrespective of your goal or expectation, it pays to take care especially in Asia when bargain-hunting.

Grabbing something of the cheap is a great feeling; coming from a western country, it's always great to know that when you're in China, nothing is set in stone and the price of many items can ebb and flow like a length of Chinese silk. However, before throw our hand up and rejoice that the bargains are ours for the taking, we need to accept a fundamental reality: shopkeepers by and large are a lot smarter than us. Typically when shopping in a commercial marketplace in a major city, expect prices to be inflated by 1-200%, if you can knock 50-75% off the starting price, then you've already done very well.

The well known secrets to bargaining well, especially when language is a barrier, is effective body-language; initially alerting the shopkeeper to your interest in item, perhaps asking how much it costs,  and then upon here the price withdraw and act aloof. It most likely that upon your withdrawal that the shopkeeper will ask what you consider a fair price to be, the ball is now in your court, pick a price and then stick to it, don't let your heart rule your head, the more weakness and flexibility you show, the more likely you're not going to get the price you want. Crucially don't get too emotional, just remind yourself than there are 20 other stores that will sell the same thing. Furthermore, never display your money until you've decided on a price. If many markets shopkeepers will try and give you change in the form of postcards or other low-value items, make sure you get the right amount of change; you may not even realize you've been had until you're well out of the store.

A quick word on the specialty items of electronics and pharmaceuticals. In China over 70% of electronics accessories outside the franchised store are fake; this includes MP3/4, headphones, batteries, speakers, USB keys and often mobile phones. So when purchasing these items, be aware that their lifespan and quality are significantly lower than their more expensive counterparts. A recent report published by the Chinese government has warned about dangerously high exposure to hazardous radiation through usage of counterfeit mobile phones. The same situation applies to medicines and pharmaceuticals which are a lot cheaper and more readily available, while a majority will work and work well. There is a large market in China for the propagation of unreliable pharmaceuticals.

--- By Brett Hartley-Wilson (VisitOurChina)



I wouldm't know the price would be inflated that much. it's a really helpful guidance:)


Thanks for sharing your experience!


my wife now visiting beijing..she text me last night that she had cheated from shopkeeper when bought the umbrellas..price of those was 20y..then she gived 100y..she got the exchange 80y..then she realised that money was FAKE!!.