China can be an incredibly cheap country if you know how to get the best prices. As with many places though, prices are often inflated for tourists and foreigners, so knowing when and how to haggle in China can be a major bonus when exploring this large and interesting country. It is expected in most places, so there’s no need to feel impolite either! Follow a few simple steps to keep you, the vendor, and your wallet happy!
Haggling is Not Okay in Malls
Department stores, modern shopping centres and glitzy shopping malls usually operate in the same way as their Western counterparts – this means that the price you see is the price that you should pay. Bartering and haggling are not good form, and if you try you will likely be dismissed immediately by the sales people. It is still possible, however, to bag a great bargain in fixed price places – look out for big signs displaying two different prices. Usually this shows incentives and offers that are available to customers, with the second amount showing how much you will save if you spend the first amount. If your total bill comes to under the first amount though you will pay full price. It is not unusual for staff to try and help you to spend a bit more to actually make a bigger saving! A little bit of shopping savvy goes a long way!
It is Okay to Haggle for Food!
Whilst this often seems really strange to a foreigner, it is perfectly acceptable to haggle for the price of your meal! You must make sure that you do this when ordering though; it is really bad manners to try and get a reduced price once you have already eaten the meal or after cooking has started. Those dining in bigger groups are likely to get the most discounts. Agree on the price for food in restaurants, at smaller hole in the wall type establishments, from street vendors, etc.
Aim to Pay Around 25% of the Initial Price
In regular stores, stalls, and markets, sellers often start their prices ridiculously high, knowing that it will come down a lot during the negotiation stage. A good guide is to pay around a quarter of the starting price, although it may be a little higher. When you get close, work out how much you are actually arguing over, and rather than feeling jibbed you will probably realize that you have still managed to agree on a real bargain!
Don’t Haggle Unless You Intend to Buy
Whilst haggling is meant to be fun, you should only enter into the bartering process if you genuinely are interesting in walking away with the product at the end of it all. Remember that people are still trying to make a living, and it’s no fun wasting time for nothing. This isn’t to say that you MUST buy the item though – if you can’t manage to agree on a price that you are happy with it is okay to give up and walk away.
Overcoming the Language Barrier
So, you know what you want, you have an idea of how much you’re prepared to pay, but where to begin? If the seller doesn’t speak any English (or any other language in which you’re proficient), write down the figures on a piece of paper, or key them into mobile phone / calculator. Once a seller sees that you are interested hey will certainly think of inventive ways for you to communicate so that they don’t lose a potential sale! Don’t let the language barrier put you off buying something that you want!
Haggling is a fun part of the Chinese culture. Smile and be friendly and people will certainly respond to you better than if you get angry and come across as aggressive, impolite, and pushy. Enjoy the experience and you’ll likely find that it becomes a long-lasting memory of your time in China! And, as with anything, the more you practice, the more comfortable and proficient you will become!
Don’t worry about how to haggle in China again with these handy tips to help you save money and enjoy part of the local way of business.