Chinese markets are crazy. They really are. For anyone that hasn’t been, just imagine you can get the latest fashions, electronics, or others luxury goods for pennies on the dollar. You want “Dre Beats”? You got ‘em! You want “Louboutin” pumps? Take two! “Rolexes”? It goes on and on and you can get anything if you are willing to barter.
Bartering can be intense, and some people are simply better at it than others. It’s a personality thing, and you need to have an infallible killer instinct and a willingness to dance the line of insulting
the shopkeeper your adversary.
Typically, an exchange will start with you standing within twenty feet of a booth. You will instantly be targeted, and the salesperson will try to get your attention. “This, you like this? You buy, yes?”
The dance has begun.
You lean in, evaluate, and say, “Sorry mam, I’m a 21 year old American guy. I don’t wear high heels.”
"Beats, you like Beats?"
Then you think: damn, how did she know I like music? Is she psychic? Can she hear this?
And she sees your thoughts and says, “You want beats, you pay 600?”
You start to try to divide by 7 and figure out how much that is in USD, and realize it’s a pretty good deal. But you can do better than that. Time to play with her head.
"I only have 100, sorry."
"Then you pay 450!"
"Only 100, sorry," and this is where it gets good. You just straight up start walking away.
This is the halmark of a real pro. Roughly ten times out of ten, she will come sprinting after you, and type a number into a calculator to show you the new special price just for you. The screen says 300.
"Special price only for you, but you no tell boss."
Steady there, stay cool. Stick to your guns.
"I’ve only got 100 Hong Kong Dollars, I’m sorry." Time for your coup d’grace. Walk away again. At this point, it goes one of two ways. They may give up on you for being a lousy, filthy laowai with no understanding of money, or they may just bend to your next offer.
To be conservative, you offer 200.
"Last offer, 200 or I’ll go get it for cheaper at the other end of the market."
Boom. She will put up a show and pretend to be offended as she rings you up and gives you your prize. But as soon as you’re out of range, she’ll laugh with the other salespeople about the show she put on and how she swindled you out of your money, because those “Beats” probably cost about 10 HKD for her to get.
See, most of the markets are supplied by the same distribution companies, as students would explain to us, and they make large amounts of profit on their low cost wares even when it seems like you just got your “Beats” for a fraction of the asking price.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your experience in the barter markets
That’s all for today. Tomorrow will be probably the craziest story I have: getting lost in Hong Kong after a crazy night in LKF!