Brian's Blogs

Bargaining in China

For many Westerners visiting China, one of the new skills they have to learn – quite apart from making themselves understood - is bargaining in the shops. For many, it “goes against the grain” to haggle over a price which has been given them by the shopkeeper. It is certainly not common practice in either Europe or America.

For some, this practice breeds resentment, since you know that the shopkeeper will try to “rip you off”, rather than ask a fair price at the outset.

Others enjoy “playing the game” and will haggle furiously to beat the shopkeeper down to a price that he will still accept.

But still there always remains that lingering doubt that somehow the shop keeper has pulled a fast one and has taken you for a fool for accepting his final “final offer”.

Last week I was at a famous Beijing clothes market with a friend who bargained long and hard and ended up paying less than a third of the original asking price. “What you want lady,” she was asked. “You trying to ruin me?” But she stuck to her guns and paid what she thought was a fair price for the goods.

Imagine our surprise when fully 10 minutes later the stall keeper found us on a different floor of the building carrying a wallet that my friend had left behind. No longer an untrustworthy cheating shopkeeper, but a genuinely charming and helpful individual.

I guess it all goes to show that underneath the façade, there is good in all of us.

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