Karissa's Guide to Bargaining
Part One: A Sample Purchase
(hypothetically bargaining for a pair of shoes or a bag, that I'm willing to pay 100 RMB for)
-Once you ask the price, the seller immediately pulls out a calculator, in order to ensure no difficulties with a language barrier, and says something like, "My normal price is this (punches 680 into the calculator), but you are a student/speak Chinese/are young/another excuse to reduce the price so you think you're saving, so I'll give you this (punches in 450)
- -Depending on the price, my reaction falls somewhere between looking distressed and shaking my head, or laughing at the ridiculousness of it. "I'm just a poor student!" (Punch in 60)
- Seller responds with a complaint about their need to make money/the quality of the item/the cheap price they're giving you. (punches in 350)
-- I respond with something along the lines of, "Can't do it", or "I don't have a ton of money!", and punch in 70
- Seller rolls her eyes, and says "Okay, I give you really good deal. Don't tell anyone, I can't give all my goods away this cheap!" (punches in 200)
-- I recycle the line of being a poor student, maybe add on the explanation that I've studied Chinese, which is very difficult, they should give me a discount! (punch in 75)
- Seller says, "Final price, 150".
-- I counter with my final offer, 100.
- Seller says no, 130
-- I shake my head no, and leave the stall.
- If the seller absolutely cannot sell at that price, they'll let me go. If they'll make even a couple dollars off of it, though, they'll yell after me, "Okay, okay, 100!" or reduce the price another 10 or so.
--If they come to 100, I'll go back and buy the item, but if they just reduce the price, I'll yell "100!" back, and just keep walking, at which point they'll normally agree.
Part Two: Useful Lines in Bargaining
1.) "I'm just a poor student, you have to give me a discount!"
2.) "I don't have much money!"
3.) "But I've taken the trouble of learning Chinese, and it's so hard to learn!"
4.) "Too expensive!"
5.) "But I have to eat, too!"
Part Three: Alternative Bargaining Methods
By and large, the dialogue above is how most of my exchanges have gone. There are other techniques for bargaining, including:
1.) Playing the stupid foreigner card, and just keep repeating the price until the seller is so anxious to get rid of you, they'll give it to you at that price (I've never tried, preferring to exercise my Chinese skills, but others have had success)
2.) Name the price you're willing to pay flat out, and when they try to get you to come up, just leave. This skips to the last step of the above dialogue, and you'll know if your price is reasonable or not (that's how I got my boots, I was so tired I wasn't in the mood for bargaining).
3.) Saying, I only have xx amount of money. Only attempt if you actually only have that amount of money, otherwise it looks really bad when you claim you only have 20 rmb, but then pay with a 100rmb note. (As one of my classmates did - it's now referred within our group as "pulling a Kaitlin" - name changed to protect the guilty).
Part Four: Favorite Antics of Sellers
1.) Theatrics. Sellers love theatrics. One classmate said he's had a seller fake cry when he named a price, and they will vary between immense anger that you want to go so low, or immense sadness, which generally includes explaining that this is how they make a living, how do you expect them to survive and feed their family if you only pay 20rmb for a scarf?
2.) Insults: Rarely used, but I've had one seller who was slightly aggressive in explaining that you couldn't even get the materials for the item for the price I had just named. The tone she said it in was most definitely an "Are you out of your mind?!" tone.
3.) Compliments: Flattery is the sincerest form of getting someone to buy something? Going to the markets is always a confidence booster - I get told frequently that I'm so pretty and my Chinese is so good! Less frequently heard compliments include being told that I'm very intelligent.
Part Five: Finer Points of Bargaining
There are also finer etiquette points regarding bargaining.
1.) Don't insult the quality of the product, because that makes the seller really mad at you. (I've not done it, but I've seen others do it in an attempt to get the price lower).
2.) If you name a price and the seller agrees to it, you should buy the item. (I just had a debate with a classmate as to whether this was true or not - I think it's ethically wrong to walk out after the seller agrees to a price you named, but he thinks it's okay. My philosophy is don't name a price you aren't willing to pay, it's just good manners.)
3.) Don't ask the price if you aren't actually interested in purchasing the item - it's kind of the point of no return, though you can certainly just name a price so insanely low there's no way they'd be willing to come down to and then leave. But in general, don't ask the price unless you're interested in buying.
4.) Don't treat it too seriously - it's much more fun if you consider it to be a game.