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Haggling July 19, 2011

Posted by Kate Bohlmann in Travel Log.
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Of course, as part of our trip to China, we’ve gone shopping a lot. And I must say, shopping is an interesting experience in Asia, and one I’ve grown to love. You see, most places you go in China aside from big stores and malls, you get to haggle down the price of things you want to buy. Haggling is a huge part of the culture here in China- I’ve learned you can even ask for a discount in the big recognizable stores. And it never hurts to ask- worst case they say they can’t give you a discount, but they still really want to sell whatever it is to you.

In the time we’ve been here, we’ve gone to both the fabric market and Qipulu several times, both of which are places where you haggle over everything. The fabric market is three stories of little shops of tailors and seamstresses who can make just about anything clothing-wise. This first picture is of one of my classmates and I just outside of the fabric market. Several of my classmates went in to various shops and had business suits made for them. These suits are of a really good quality, too. In these shops you’re able to choose the fabric you want the suit made out of, the design and cut you want the suit to be, and then they measure you and make a suit specifically tailored for you. You can even talk to them about the various ways you want the suit to fit and how you want the finished product to look.

A classmate and I outside of the fabric market

While we were there, I didn’t order a suit myself, but I did order a qipao to be made for me. In case you don’t know much about Chinese culture, a qipao is the traditional Chinese style of dress. Mine is knee length, in a bright red fabric that the shopkeeper told me was unique to his shop and couldn’t be found anywhere else (and we do believe him on that- these shops are incredibly competitive so he would have to be able to back that up). My qipao is also trimmed in a double layer of black ribbon. And just like the other products you can buy at the fabric market, it is tailored specifically for me and fits perfectly. I love the finished product. We recently went to see the Peking Opera (traditional Chinese opera) and I got to wear my qipao there. I’ve included a picture of me and two of my friends in the theater when I was wearing my qipao.

I also love going to Qipulu here. Qipulu is made up of around 3 to 5 big buildings (I’m not sure exactly how many there are because we’ve still only explored a few of them). These buildings are several stories each, and are filled with these tiny little shops selling everything from shoes, to clothing, to purses, to sunglasses, and many, many other things. I’ve included a picture of one of the stores in Qipulu- I thought it was really cool because to save space in the shoe shops they typically each have a ladder and a little hole in the ceiling- and up through that hole is where they store all of the extra sizes of the various shoes since they can only display so much out on the floor.

The shopkeepers standing near the hole in their ceiling where they store extra shoes

The best part is haggling. Haggling can be extremely satisfying when a shopkeeper quotes a certain price at the beginning and then after successful haggling you get them to cut the price by more than half. There is a lot of strategy to haggling, however. At first you tell them the price they’re quoting is way too expensive. After that they will generally ask you to name the price that you want. This is probably one of the most important parts- since once you ask for a certain price you won’t be able to get away with asking for a lower price. A good rule of thumb is to try cutting the price in half or a little more than half at first. But always, if you think asking for a certain price is good, go lower. Once you cut the price a shopkeeper will tell you they can’t sell that low. And gradually you come up bit by bit as they lower the price they’re offering. Sometimes though if they aren’t bargaining much, the best thing you could possibly do is to walk away. Most times they’ll run after you yelling okay because they want to make a sale. And eventually you’ll know that you’ve gotten to a good price when they gruffly agree to it and hand you the item. Generally that means you’ve gotten to the point where they’re not making as much profit but are desperate to make a sale.

Sometimes they want to make a sale so badly that they practically give you an item. One time as we were looking at clothes I was looking around but obviously not buying anything. My friends bought a lot of clothing, though. Eventually as they were bargaining with the shopkeeper, she looked over to me and pulled out a dress I had looked at and told me she would give it to me for less than half the price- which was less than 10 US dollars. Of course I took it- she was practically giving it to me at that point. And that’s part of the fun of haggling- at the end of the day you may not have gotten one of the things you really wanted because you had to walk away, but you look and see that you did get some really cool things at a steal of a price because you successfully haggled.

Wearing my new qipao to the Peking Opera

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