The good news is that by the end of this trip, Nellu and I will be quite adept at bargaining. The bad news is…we’re not there yet.
We went to a few of Beijing’s famous marketplaces while we in town, namely Pearl Market and Silk Market, to get a few items we had yet to pick up for our trip. Interestingly, the markets themselves were more like a department stores, jam-packed with booths each hawking their wares, than open-air flea markets. The salespeople call out to you (and even grab you, touch you and keep you from leaving) as you pass through ticking off some of the brands they think will interest you. Apparently I looked like I was in the market for Gucci, Prada, or Louis Vuitton.
We weren’t going to get side tracked though stocking up on fake designer wallets. Nellu needed a new bag and I needed a new ring. (I ended up leaving my wedding band at home this time.)
First up, the bag. Nellu is very particular about his bag . He wanted an airplane bag that was big enough to fit his camera, Jimmy McMillan doll, and a few other necessities for our day treks. We hadn’t found anything quite the right size or style in New York. But in the bag heaven of the Silk Market, he found a “Converse” vinyl bag that would surely do the trick. And it’s allegedly fireproof, or at least that’s what the saleswoman was implying by attempting to light it on fire with a lighter (several times). Nellu asked how much. She opened with CNY1200 or close to $190. Whaaat!? This bag is a lovely bag but clearly not worth with nearly $200. She knew it but could probably tell that Nellu liked it a lot and thought that opening with such an outrageous bid would force us to go much higher than we wanted.
She was right. After going back and forth, Nellu got her down to about CNY150 or about $23 dollars. Done. Is $23 a bad price to pay for a bag that you use everyday? Not at all. But could we have done better? Of course. And I went on to prove it to Nellu about two minutes later, when we walked by the exact same bag at another stand. (To be honest, this one might not have been fireproof. This salesman did not try to set it on fire like the last had.) I was able to get it for about half the price.
Still after teasing Nellu for his bag bargaining, I went on to make an equally poor deal. I paid CNY20 or about $3 for a plastic, metallic painted ring with “real crystals” that I should have gotten for less than a dollar. My mistake: opening too high. I just didn’t really know how to start at cents on the dollar.
Admittedly, I’ve never been good at bargaining. When we went to Bali for our honeymoon, I paid $20 for a sarong on the beach. Why so much? I liked it, it was about what I would have paid in New York, and I didn’t want to take advantage of the woman selling it. But generally, I think the issue is more that I have a price that I will pay in my head. It’s usually cheaper than what I would expect to get for it at home. Add in a the thrill of the chase and the necessity to do math in my head quickly and you got me fogged up long enough to get me to overpay.
But we’ll get better at bargaining. Oh will we get better, which should help when we go back to work and need to negotiate our new salaries.