I love haggling, and so do the Chinese! Whether it was for a pack of cards on the Great Wall or for a necklace at a stand by the Li river, I partook in a fun bout of haggling, leaving with purchases that will forever remind me of my trip here – at a bargain price!
Unless you are in a high-street store, where the prices are fixed, you can pretty much haggle for many goods on sale in China. In fact, you often have to ask for the price. The advice is to offer at least a quarter of what you are told to pay in order to give you leeway to reach a middle ground.
Bartering really is part of the buying process here and I often see the seller’s eyes light up when I offer a lower price; they often smile as they reach out for a thumbed little notebook, their trusty calculator or sometimes just their fingers. The Chinese cleverly can count from one to ten in one hand. Just because we don’t share a common language doesn’t mean we can strike a deal! We’ll go back and forth and then comes my favourite part: if I’m not happy with the final asking price I walk away. Someone once taught me that if you want to strike a deal you have to be able to walk away from the table. Of course you have to be willing to lose, but very often, you will hear a ‘hello!’ or an utterance of sorts, signalling that you can get your goods for the price you want.
In China you will probably also experience what I call ‘auto-haggling’, when even though you might not be, or not think you are interested in a fresh garland of flowers, little wooden ducks on which to place your chopsticks, or a plastic case in which to place your mobile phone, you will be poked, followed and insisted with to purchase said goods. This happened to us during a trip to Xingping where we took a raft down the Li River (another extraordinary event that must be documented) during a guided Chinese tour (also a novel experience!).
Before we had even descended from the bus, I could see a little crowd of women gathering with their goods, waiting for their potential customers at the bus’s entrance. Even though we said no, they followed us, poking and going down on the very prices they had offered initially. Insistence is the name of their game. I think the funniest was when we hopped off our raft and a woman with a stick balanced on her shoulders, with two birds on each end, placed a pointed round hat on my husband as he tried to get away from her offer for this photo opportunity. I can still see him now, laughing, telling her no, as she continued to try to attempt to hand over the birds on the stick to him. Sadly I didn't catch the moment on camera, but this is the next best thing:
I’ll admit I succumbed and ended up buying two pears for ¥5 (c. 50c)! While it can get a little irritating when you just want to browse at a market, it really is all quite harmless fun and if you show you mean ‘no’, you will ultimately, at some point, be left alone.