Wed | Aug 23, 2017

How to haggle in China

Published:Wednesday | August 26, 2015 | 8:00 AMAndre Lowe

A trip to Beijing is not complete without a hop over to the world-famous Silk Market - a place of sorts where not too many things are what they say they are; and if you can't haggle and bargain, Stay Away!

I decided to follow some colleagues to the place yesterday to see how much of if it had changed at all since 2008. I had no intentions to buy anything there since I spent what I considered good money seven years ago on a bag that started changing colour the day I left China, as if it were geo-coded or something.

It is said that there are high-quality, original stuff at Silk Market, and given its high-profile list of shoppers that include musical and sport stars, as well as heads of state and the likes, I want to believe it's true. Problem is, I liked that bag and, furthermore, 'believe' cannot be a strong word in a place where you can get an iPhone look-a-like that would have Apple boss Tim Cook himself forking out his money.

Even the ice cream tasted like a knock-off ... Pfffftt; 'Rum and Raisin', yea right! You could count the raisins, and not even the slightest smell of rum.

Still, it's very much an experience that will leave an impression, and you just can't help but marvel at the characters, the animated soliciting and, of course, the ingenuity and skill displayed at every shop in this massive mall.

You can pretty much get anything you want at the Silk Market. From tailored suits to traditional Chinese garb; from the latest electronics (conditions apply), food, jewellery, anything.

I ran into a couple other Jamaicans who were sharing a story about their first visit a couple days prior, where 2000 Chinese yuan renminbi - about US$30 or over $3,000 - which was the price a seller was quoting for a pair of pants, eventually dropped to 40 Chinese Yuan Renminbi - about US$6 or $700 - after some aggressive bargaining. That should give an idea how high 'Mr/Mrs Chin' setting the prices in here.

Still, most Jamaicans are used to haggling and 'bawling dung di price' anyway, so it's not too much of a navigational nightmare. In fact, most Jamaicans I know who have been there seem to revel in the challenge of taking 'Mr Chin's' price as far down as possible - to the ground - which is what I did when negotiating the price for a sword - yes! a sword - that I had no intention of buying. 'Ms Chin' was tough at first, holding fast to her price.

"I give you good price; that is best price."

"No, hold this (handing back sword). you tek me fi idiot. You think a war me ago fight wid the sword? Dem cheaper roun' desso."

With a little pointing and dramatic facial expressions, everyone understands the language of haggling. You have to be clear when negotiating, no delaying ... 'yes' or no' right away. Serious, no smiling

"This best quality."

"'Ms Chin', tek u sword. (Shakes head and hand) Don't want it again. Goodbye."

A little later, 5,000RMB became 100RMB. Would have been a good session if I wanted a sword.