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Bargaining 101 in the Dali Market

CHINA | Thursday, 29 April 2010 | Views [456]

Lessons I learned about bargaining today:

1) When you approach an item that you are interested in, don’t show your interest at all.

2) Even if you like an item it is good to curl your lip and shake your head as though you find fault with it.

3) After the merchant gives you his asking price (which is usually way to high) state your offering price and walk away.

4) If they let you walk away, then the price you asked was too low. If they try to bargain, then you are in the right ballpark.

5) Don’t come up in price too quickly--when all else fails start walking because more than likely a merchant is selling the same doggone thing two stalls down.

6) Don’t act surprised when they accept your low offer. They know that if they give you something for a low price, then you might purchase something else from them (remember the door busters on black Friday).

7) Go for a low price but don’t try to break them. Remember that two or three Yuan means a lot more to them than it does to you.

8) Make sure to ask for a price break when you buy many items.

I feel a bit intimidated when I come up against people who have been bargaining their entire life. Rightfully so, I have always been taught to pay the amount on the price tag and have done with it. Not only that, but as a citizen of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, I have also been taught to feel guilty about the fact we have so much and others so little. I have two responses to that. First, even if I get a low price on an item from a merchant, I know that there will be five other tourists who will pay more than they have to. Second, the Chinese are an up-and-coming world power. The gap between the purchasing power of the US dollar and that of the Chinese Yuan is slowly closing, and even if I come from a wealthy country, it doesn’t mean I’m wealthy.

In order to make room in my pack for some of my new items, I need to give some of my other things away. This is easier said than done. In the States, I would just take the unwanted items to a donation bin, but in southeast Asia there is no such thing. I have asked. The women at the hotel in Vietnam looked at me as though I was crazy. Mostly I resolve these issues just by leaving things in hotel rooms, but I think that means the housekeeping staff gets to claim it. This is not necessarily a bad thing because I know that if I am only paying eight to ten dollars a night, then they aren’t getting much of that. Is there an Asian solution to this problem? Because my western one doesn’t seem to work here.

Thanks to my friend Sarah for the bargaining lessons.

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