Shopping, shopping shopping. Who doesn’t enjoy shopping? 😉 Certainly not me, judging by all the things I’ve bought since I’ve been here…
So I thought it might be a good idea to put a post together that just talks about shopping in Beijing – where to go, what you can buy and, most of all, how to haggle! 🙂
I (semi) regularly go to three different markets; Golden Towers, which is in Wudaokou (五道口), about ten minutes from where I live, Ya Show, which is near Sanlitun (三里屯) Village, and the Silk Market, in Chaoyang District (朝阳区).
Golden Towers is the smallest of the three and though I usually go there to buy stationary or jewellry, they also sell all kinds of clothes and some electrical goods. Like with the other markets, you can haggle, though they tend to be less accommodating for that sort of thing ;). If you’re in Wudaokou or the Haidian District (海淀区), it’s probably worth a look!
Ya Show (雅秀) is just near Sanlitun Village; get Subway Line 10 to Tuanjiehu (团结湖) and then head for the Village – it’s all signposted, though. It’s larger than Golden Towers and the prices don’t start so high as they do at the Silk Market, but it can be more difficult to get the vendors down to the price you want, unless you’re willing to do some serious work. I buy shoes here (they’re all downstairs) and have bought some electronic things, though that’s easier to do at the Silk Market. Still, Ya Show is well located – if you go to the Village, there’s a lot of other stores: Nike Running, Starbucks, Puma, the largest Adidas store in the world and, last week, they opened a Hollister (so if you go soon, there might still be half-naked guys standing around outside).
The Silk Market (秀水街) is in the Chaoyang District, like Sanlitun – you take Subway Line 1 to Yong’anli (永安里) and Exit A takes you straight to the market. This is my favourite of all the markets and though it can be daunting at first, once you get into it, it’s fun to shop there. They have everything – shoes, bags, clothes, electronics, general tourist-y souvenirs… you name it, it’s probably in there somewhere and you can probably get it a lot cheaper than at home. Be prepared to have people shout for you to come into their stalls – even if you’ve just bought the things they sell somewhere else – and even for them to physically try to pull you inside, but be sure to keep a clear head, because this is where all the tourists go and the prices start unreasonably high. Still, if you’re good at haggling (which in a minute, you will be ;)), you’ll be fine.
So, haggling. It can be a little daunting at first, but it gets easier as you practice. There are a couple of methods to try.
One: the usual method. They give you a price and you try to get it lower, usually upping your own price a little as you do. They’ll tell you they’re giving you a ‘friends’ price but if you really want the low price, you’ll have to do this strange little farce where you put everything down and start to walk away… and then eventually, they’ll call you back and give in to your price. It’s fairly effective, especially if you know how much you’re willing to play. Just remember to stick to your guns.
The second method is the one I call ‘the Dan method’ after my friend, who’s a boss at this. It works similarly to the method outlined above, except that instead of changing your price at all, you just say the same number over and over. With this method you’re much more likely to have to walk away, but the vendors are about as likely to give in (the occasional one will not, especially if there are lots of other tourists around).
I’ve got five top tips that might help you out a little:
- Learn some Chinese. At least the numbers should be helpful, though lots of the vendors will slap out a calculator to help you along. Still, if you show you know some Chinese they suddenly become a lot more cooperative – and a lot more complimentary. It can be a double-edged sword.
- Know what you want to pay before you go in. It’s always good to see where the vendors start if you have no idea how much something is worth, but especially at the Silk Market, they’ll start really high. As an example, yesterday I bought a bag of souvenirs and the woman started at 930 kuai – but I got her down to 200 without all that much effort.
- Go to a few different stalls before you buy. At the first stall, ask what price they’re willing to start at – especially if they’re busy. If they’re busy, they won’t go down too much. At the second, tell them what they said at the first. At the third, the second. Rinse and repeat. To be honest, you won’t get past the first most of the time; they really want to make a sale. Sometimes it’s worth going to the sides of the market, too – the parts that most tourists don’t visit. We walked past a stall the other day and a woman shouted out half the price I would normally pay for a pair of shoes – and it certainly got us in the door.
- Build a rapport. This can be if you visit for just one day, or go back repeatedly. For example, when we go, we always explain that we’re students, we don’t have much money, etc., and after a little chat (usually in Chinese, but most of the vendors, especially in the Silk Market, speak passable to good English) they’re usually much friendlier about the price. If you go back more than once then, one, you can keep getting the same cheap original price (make sure it’s worth it, though); and two, if you bring your friends they’ll be much more accommodating – who doesn’t love repeat business?
- Stick to your guns. Once you’ve decided on a price, stick to it. If you don’t want to get into an argument (spoiler: you probably will), start a little lower than your ideal price, but honestly, you’re more than likely going to have to walk away. Accept it. They’ll shout at you, but if you stick with your price you’ll more than likely get what you want. Ignore that note of finality in their voice when they give you a price 50 kuai higher than what you wanted to pay – and just repeat your offer. It’ll all work out.
Well, I hope you’ve found this useful. Tomorrow: a day in my life, based on what I did yesterday, yay! 🙂