The art of bargaining
Updated: 2011-12-16 07:47
By Ginger Huang (黄原竟) (China Daily)
Knowing the "secret" of cutting prices in Chinese will help you enjoy your shopping fun. [Liao Xianwang / For China Daily]
An expert shopper isn't always an expert bargainer. Learn the tricks of the trade from Zhang Ayi, a woman who's a legend at both.
I was never very good at bargaining. Every time girlfriends asked what I paid for a new jacket, which always happens here, I'd lie, offering up a third of what I actually paid. They'd still tell me, with an obnoxious sniff, that I was pranked. This smarts.
My humiliation lasted until I met Zhang Ayi, who is a born bargainer. Zhang Ayi can walk into any tourist market, anywhere in the world, and always emerges with amazing local crafts and an almost-unscathed wallet. She used observation, performance, drama, and guts to cut prices. She embarked on long, arduous battles that put patience and energy to the test.
Once you're in the stall, that's when the techniques and scripts start to matter. First, remember never to show you're interested. For such a widely known rule, this is always the first to be forgotten.
Buyer: Hrm, that's a funny-looking scarf. How much is it?
Zhè tiáo wéijīn kàn qǐlái hái xíng。Duōshǎo qián ā?
Whatever price they give, play the role of the shocked customer, and up the drama. Really twist your face up at the price.
Buyer: That expensive? That doesn't make sense at all.
Zhème guì?Tài lípǔ le!
Vendor: Seriously, I'm already giving you a discount. In most cases I tell people 1,000. I'll be totally frank with you: The lowest price I can take is 700. How about that?
Wǒ yǐjīng ràng zhe nǐ le, gēn biérén wǒ dōu shuō 1,000 ne。Zhèyàng ba, wǒ gěinǐ gè shíjià, qībǎi nǐ náqù ba。
Buyer: It is still way too expensive.
Qībǎi háishì tàiguìle.
Now they'll ask you, as if it's been scripted out (which it has), how much you're willing to pay.
Vendor: So how much you want to pay for it?
Nà nǐ yuànyì chū duōshǎo qián?
Don't reply. Ignore them, as you keep looking around, murmuring to yourself or your friend that the shopkeeper is far too greedy for a sincere, honest customer like yourself.
Buyer: You are not being very sincere.
Lǎobǎn, nǐ zhègerén zhēn bù shízài。
This is a game, and you're going to have to be bold at this point.
Walk to the door, as they continue to ask what your best price is. Don't be shy. Offer a sixth of the asking price.
Vendor: Do you really want this one? If you do, what's an acceptable price?
Nǐ chéngxīn xiǎng mǎi ma? Chéngxīn xiǎng mǎi de huà jiù gěi gè jià ba。
Buyer: I'd rather not. Why waste your time offering a price we can't possibly agree on?
Búyòng le, wǒ shuōle nǐ yě búhuì dāyìng de。
Vendor: It doesn't matter, just go ahead.
Méi guānxi, nǐ shuō ba.
Buyer: It's only worth 100 kuai to me.
Wǒ kàn tā yě jiù zhí yìbǎi kuài.
Some shop owners will accuse you, at this point, of not being sincere and honest. They'll insist the quality is unrivaled.
Vendor: You must be kidding me. This is such a well-made product. You won't find something like it anywhere else. Look, it's not easy for me to make a living nowadays.
Kāi shénme wánxiào? Nǐ kànkan zhè zhìliàng, bié jiā de dōngxi méifǎ bǐ。Xiànzài zuò shēngyi bù róngyì。
All of these may sound like refusals, but they're all complete confirmations that your offer was reasonable. Stand firm.
Buyer: My friend bought exactly the same thing, for this price. Anyway, I don't think the color is quite right.
Wǒ de péngyou yě mǎile yíyàng de dōngxi, jiù huāle zhème duō qián。Zàishuō, tā de yánsè bú tài zhèng。
If your offer wasn't reasonable, the reaction will probably be silence, accompanied by a cold stare and a hand pointing toward the door. But don't take them personally - it's just another part of the play.
If you receive this reaction, ask for the lowest price he is willing to offer. At this point, usually it will be a more reasonable price.
If the bargaining battle reaches an impasse, it's time to slowly wander to the exit, shaking your head woefully.
Buyer: I'm not in desperate need of scarf, anyway. I'll check out what some of the other shops have to offer.
Wǒ yě bù zháojí yào。Háishì qù biéjiā kànkan ba。
If all goes according to script, just as you're stepping beyond hearing distance, the shop owner will yell out to you.
Vendor: Alright, alright! Add an extra 5 yuan, and it's yours.
Hǎoba hǎoba, zài jiā wǔkuài jiù gěinǐ!
Don't surrender! You're only one step from triumph. Take another step away from the shop, with your ears perked up. Listen intently, as you win the prize.
Vendor: Okay already, come back and take it. It's yours.
Hǎoba, jiāoqián ba! Gěinǐ dài yíjiàn。
Courtesy of The World of Chinese, www.theworldofchinese.com