A shopping adventure to flea markets like Silk Street and Yashow is a Beijing rite of passage. Thousands of stalls bulging with counterfeit delights can be a whole lot of fun, but beware: the feisty, multi-lingual vendors are experts at parting buyers with their hard-earned cash. To avoid paying more than you should, check out our ten tips on how to bargain in Beijing Silk Market!
1. Be prepared on price
It helps to have an amount in mind before going into battle. Remember, there are no genuine big brand articles, so you should be paying a fraction of what the original would cost in the shops. As a general rule, we’d say most items should cost around or less than 200 RMB with the exception of a few things like some top notch reproduction handbags which might cost a bit more.
2. Shop around
Don’t go straight for the first stall you see. You’ll probably find the item you like at several other booths, so take a wander and make some casual enquiries! They’ll do their best to hook you in, so stay strong. This leads on to…
3. Show a little nonchalance
Don’t gush over an item you fancy; they’ve got their eyes on you! Put on your best poker face – sometimes pretending (or not) to spot imperfections can help lower the price.
4. Flash that smile
The quickest way to lose a sale is by losing your temper. Remember – it’s a game, and they are more experienced players than you, Smile, be polite, friendly and jokey, and have fun.
5. Don’t flash the cash
There’s nothing more likely to ruin your bargaining mojo than the vendor getting an eyeful of crisp pink bills in your hand or purse! The same goes for how you’re dressed, of course. Leave the brands and bling at the hotel – basic is better.
6. Talk before you try
Make sure you fix a price before you try on that silk shirt. As you strike a pose in front the mirror, the vendors are carefully gauging your reaction. If they think you like it, the price will start high and stay there.
7. Walk away
As a last gasp bargaining chip this tactic might help push the price down into your territory. It’s a balancing act though; go too low and they might not call you back. (Leaving you a long, lonely walk down No-Pants Lane).
8. Quality control
A market might have several versions of the same product reproduced to varying quality levels (UGG-style boots are a good example), so check forensically, and don’t’ be afraid to ask. Chances are they will try to offload the shoddiest stock first – until they realise you’re a savvy shopper!
9. The ‘Favourite Item Feint’
This is an advanced level technique and not recommended for beginners! Start by bargaining on an item you’re not interested in, bump the price down a bit, and then switch over casually to the item you actually want. This should throw the vendor off the scent, and maximise your chances of bagging a bargain.
10. Most of all… be patient!
Bargaining is a game that rarely plays out quickly. If you want the lowest price you simply have to go through the motions on every item, haggling the price closer and closer to what you are prepared to pay. (Starting out below your target price, of course). Act like you’re in a big hurry and it just won’t work.
Now get out there and bag some Beijing bargains, shoppers!
About the author: Tom O’Malley is Propaganda Secretary at Bespoke Beijing. A lifestyle journalist, guidebook author, glutton and bon vivant, Tom is a tireless crusader for fine food, hospitality and tourist experiences in China’s capital.