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How To Bargain Effectively In Olympic Beijing, China

The one thing I always relearn every time I return to Asia is the art of bargaining. It is one that is strangely missing from most people’s daily lives if they live in America. Perhaps that is the reason many Americans are so bad at it. When you live in a culture where bargaining is expected, it becomes second nature. In Beijing, bargaining is prevalent in convenient places. I say this because there are moments where you really don’t want to bargain. Restaurants and taxis come to mind as two examples. I hate having to haggle about price with a taxi driver before getting in. You don’t usually have to do that here.

When it comes to shopping, however … it is all about bargaining and the better you do it, the more satisfying your purchase and the farther you can stretch your money. Here are some tips I’ve uncovered for how to bargain effectively in China and come away with what you what at a fair price:

  1. Get the price first – Never ever pick anything up, try anything on, or even look for any period of time at something without first extracting a price. Doing this forces them to set a starting point before they can hook you on a product.
  2. Don’t give them your price right away – The flip side of this is that a smart seller will always try to get you to tell them "your price." Your main goal is to avoid giving them your price until later. As much later as you can manage.
  3. Keep looking at other things – Nothing pins you down faster than if you are laser focused on one product. If they know you really want it, they are far less inclined to offer you a better price.
  4. Walk away or create a time pressure – Using an accomplice is good for this … the main thing you want is to create a reason for them to do the deal quickly. If you "need to leave," you can often get a better price.
  5. Do them a favor – When you come back, make them feel like you are doing them a favor by staying. Because you like them and you want to buy, but you need a better reason (ie – a better price) in order to stay.
  6. Add a second – Early in the bargaining, they will try to get you to agree to buy more than one of whatever you are interested in. Always start by bargaining for one. When you feel you are getting their bottom price, ask them what the price would be if you buy two. Then three, or four. You may not want that many, but now you know what they are willing to go down to for one. And often you can get the second basically for free.
  7. Set a final price – When you have finally done all this and locked in a price in your head, then you can finally write that price on their calculator they have been using to tell you their prices. Make sure that you do this quietly, the last thing you want is for other people to hear the great price you are getting, or else the seller may not sell to you for that price anymore. When you set your final price, make sure to tell the seller that if they do that price, you’ll buy it right now. Otherwise you’ll have to go.

If you have bargained correctly, usually this last step will be really fast and they will agree. What I love about bargaining in China as opposed to other cultures is that they are very fair about their deals.  If you made a deal to pay 90 and give them 100, they will give you 10 back without a fuss. In other places, it pays to have exact change in case the seller says they "don’t have any." That’s about it. Hope this post helps you to get a great deal while you’re traveling to China or any other country where bargaining is popular.

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