Haggling 101 for Shanghai

Shopping on the fabric and “fake markets” during my last two weeks in Shanghai:
I had my fair share of haggling and bargaining with Chinese vendors in the last weeks of my stay. Sometimes I ripped off them off – sometimes the Chinese vendors ripped me off. “Ripping off” has to be interpreted up to my bargaining standards. Comparing the prices to pay in Shanghai and the prices to pay in Europe, it was still possible to make a few good deals, although, seasoned Chinese customers should still act better in bargaining than me.

But well, after shopping souvenirs for friends and family, I am fed up with the Chinese market vendors. They are such dramatic actors … I had my fair share of the market culture. Sometimes it is fun but most of the time exhausting and tiresome.
Here come a few samples from their dramatic art:
“Look, look! … Bags? Watches? T-Shirts? … Suits, look at the suits”
“I give you best price!”
“You first customer – I give you best price” *
“This price?! No, no, no, cannot do”
“You are joking. Not nice. You are mean. Joking with me …”
“I give you best price!”
“This cannot do”
“What is your best price? Tell me your best price.”
“Good quality – good quality”

After a weekend on the markets, the ever repeating repertoire of haggling went on like a disc on replay in my head. At lots of stalls vendors use the same standard sentences in weird English.
Also Chinese colleagues went with me to clothes and souvenirs market. Actually, they went with me to support me in haggling – it ended to other way around 🙂 I was negotiating with the vendors and my Chinese colleagues were just watching. I “supposedly” ruined a vendor because I paid 120RMB for two T-Shirts and a belt. The vendor said something in Chinese to my colleague. lateron, my colleague told me what the vendor said: “Europeans are tough – Americans except the price early. Europeans are more clever; they keep on pushing prices down. They are harder to deal with.”
My colleagues felt weird that I already knew how to deal with Chinese vendors – even better than some Chinese they would do it … so much for taking a Chinese to negotiations with Chinese 😉

Here are a few hints, tips, and observations – Chinese market culture:
First, stay polite.

See haggling as a game -> Practise on the go. Don’t buy in the first shop you enter. Use your first stalls to train and to get a feeling for haggling.

Don’t rip the vendors off by pushing prices too low. If you are interested in items, try to find out the real value/possible buying price of the articles. Vendors also have to make a living … so leave some room for reasonable margin.

Tailors in fabric shops are usually not the manufacturers of the clothes you order. In most cases your tailor-made clothes will be stitched in sweatshops. Better not pressure on time since the tailors will forward the pressure on to poor “sweatshop slaves” … :-/

Going early / being first customer has advantages … (see above and see below*)

Bulk buying to ask for discounts

All in all, have fun on the markets!

Some hyperlinks about fake market and bargaining in China:



* Why the first customer allegedly gets the best price is still a concept that I haven’t understood. My theory is the following: Chinese are superstitious. Since the first deal of the day could be an indication for the deals to follow on that day, vendors might get lucky that day when their first customer buys instead of walking away … never found enough proof for this theory – so far could not confirm it with Chinese friends. Can somebody confirm it? Or can somebody explain why first customer should get best price? Thanks in advance! 🙂

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