China is a country where anyone, even mediocre bargainers like us, will negotiate a good price – you just need to know where to go shopping, discern market prices and… In this post, we’ll write a few words about bargain secrets, Chinese fakes and silk! :)
We imagined China as a country of plastic souvenirs, crappy toys and gadgets that nobody needs. We have complained several times in our posts, especially from our travels in Poland, that when approaching popular destinations we had to squeeze between stalls selling Chinese food.
And that’s the kind of Chinese we’ve come to expect in the Middle Kingdom. However, it turns out that the Chinese rely on exporting souvenirs ;) There were indeed stores under many attractions, but there were far fewer of them than in other tourist destinations around the world, the selection was truncated, and they were in no way attractive or interesting.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that, however, the traditional Chinese family does not stock such gadgets? Local tradition dictates that they bring back various souvenirs and gifts from their trips, but instead of buying lightsabers, they choose food items such as eggs or milk packaged in pretty, decorative cardboard boxes! Of course, itinerant trade is there, solicitors are there, but it’s something we’ve come to expect here and it didn’t bother us in any way (the most we could experience was at the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army).
What else did we imagine? Fakes, fakes everywhere! Not only clothes, shoes, but also equipment, cosmetics – everything. We wondered how we would distinguish the fakes from the originals? Won’t they pull something? We have read about fake stores, such as the entire Apple store, where even the employees were saintly convinced that they worked for Apple! Such things only in China :) We didn’t want to buy fakes, we’re against it, but we were very curious about how things were in Beijing, so we often looked into stores and shopping malls, just out of curiosity.
In fact, the Chinese counterfeit a lot. Let’s start with shoes and clothes. Walking down the streets of Beijing or Xi’an we would come across stores where in baskets or big cardboard boxes you could win Adidas, Nize or other fancy brands for pennies, but the quality of workmanship was so poor that they probably wouldn’t make it to Poland. There were also better counterfeit products, but prices surprisingly were then significantly higher, sometimes higher than the price of the originals in Poland.
We’ve also seen entire fake stores that are theoretically private label, but I don’t think we need to hint at what brand they’re pretending to be? :)
Curious about prices? Men’s New Bunren shoes – about 400-500 yuan, original in the New Balance store on the other side – 600-700 yuan. Is it worth it? Answer this question for yourself. Although some models had almost identical prices on both sides ;)
What’s up with New Balance! Are you familiar with the American chain Walmart? Rest assured, you can also find this American chain in Beijing. And yes! You’ll also find a fake (though that’s probably too big a word) of it called…. Wumart ;)
What else surprised us? The topic at our place is very topical – baby carriages. There are very few strollers in China, but when there are, they are small, sleek ones like our Yoyo. Well, that’s right, almost like… How many fakes of this stroller we have seen is impossible to count :) Already skipping the popular Yoya, but we also saw Yuyu, Vovo, Beyo, etc. All similar, yet if you look closely you can see that they are underdeveloped.
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Chinese Department Stores, or Silk Market
However, if you want to really indulge yourself among the Chinese stalls, it is worth going to one of several department stores (so-called “Markets”) in Beijing: Silk Market, Yashow Market or Pearl Market – these are huge (huge!) department stores where you can find almost everything on AliExpress:)
We came across one by accident, at the Temple of Heaven – HongQiao Pearl Market. This multi-story market offers electronics, gadgets, toys, clothing, shoes, handbags, scarves, jewelry as well as traditional Chinese products and souvenirs.
On each floor you will find something different, and praise them for dividing the floors thematically, because it saves a lot of time though :) Stepping inside, you can feel like you’re in a real bazaar, where everyone will invite you in, encourage you, and all you have to do is glance at something and you’re already a potential buyer. There is no chance, to calmly approach, to tinker, to look around.
Note, this is the place where we met the most Chinese people who speak English :) No wonder, whole coaches of tourists drive up here, and as soon as they walk through the door they are attacked by vendors. Here we also met Poles for the second time (the first time was on the Great Wall).
Yes, it is tiring. Me, I like to walk around slowly, look around at what’s there in general, what I like, and not immediately go into specifics. But I’m indecisive by nature, so even after going through the length and breadth 15 times, I wouldn’t know what I like best ;)
Nevertheless, there will also be something for the undecided and picky. I came up with the idea that I wanted an elegant backpack in a particular color and size. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spot it anywhere on the stands, but you just have to say what you’re looking for, and the salesman will show you a catalog right away, where he has all possible colors and shapes, and as soon as you decide, he flies somewhere to the underworld and brings you what you need ;)
How are prices shaping up? Cosmic! Out of curiosity and at the same time driving the salesmen to a frenzy, we approached and asked about prices, even though we were not interested (it is better to avoid this, because later they chase you through half a store, but curiosity does its job). For some woman’s handbag they may want as much as 800 yuan (with up to 300 coming down on a good day), a razor 1,000 yuan, magnets 20 yaun.
These prices are really out of space and no one has ever paid that much there, because the price goes right down. Such a starting price as an incentive is to show how much they like you and especially for you, a friend from Poland, they will go much lower. By the way, one wonders on what basis they price how much a tourist can afford….
How to bargain in China?
Anyway… How to bargain? Culturally, but firmly. It’s best to assume right away how much you want to buy a particular item for, but make it a fair price (you can look on Ali what the actual prices are).
Remember, once you start bargaining and come to an agreement, that thing should be bought. Let’s take each other seriously. What does it look like in practice? We wanted to buy the aforementioned backpack, starting price 800 yuan (for unbranded!!!), before I said anything it already cost 700 (reliable calculators give advice). When I said that it was definitely too expensive – 600, and when I repeated it another 5 times,złto 400 :)
Then they ask what my price is. So I handed over 40 yuan and then the bundle started in my direction :D I heard how I wanted to rob them, that they had to earn something, that they didn’t want to pay extra, etc. etc. Better not to listen ;) They offer their price and you raise it slightly.
When it comes to the ‘Final Price’ quote the price you are really able to pay, even though from the Chinese side from the ‘Final price’ (i.e. quoted by him) will still go down, and quite a lot. In the end, it stood at 80 yuan, or about 50 zł(1 yuan is about 0.60 zł). Is it a raging bargain? It depends on how much someone is able to pay. złsatisfied :)
Remember that in truth, no one will sell you anything below cost…. I am convinced that a Chinese would sell his even cheaper, but after all, it’s not about killing each other for every yuan either. See, the customer is happy because he bought the backpack for 10% of the original price (which, I will remind you, was from outer space), and the seller still made a good profit on it.
What else works? We have referenced prices from AliExpress a few times and that helps too. I’ll say it again: it’s not about being some horrible scrooge, let’s be honest and fair. The Chinese working there are masters at role-playing, don’t be fooled, but take them seriously.
What and where is worth buying in China?
What is worth buying? There is something good for everyone :) We bought small gadgets for cell phones, scarves, small jewelry and, of course, magnets :)
However, when you get tired of the haggling, the hounding, then shopping can be done in typical markets such as the aforementioned Walmart and Wumart, or Carrefour as we know it. The selection of items is quite large, both grocery, cosmetics, as well as home furnishings, baby items, etc.
Of course, it’s hard to look for familiar products here, although in every store there was an aisle titled “world food”, where you can find something closer to us (there was Polish sour soup powder!!!).
Unfortunately, most of the subtitles are in Chinese and it’s hard to figure out what’s what. Instead, you can buy ready-made meals, Chinese soups, drinks, etc. Fruits and vegetables are expensive, it’s better to buy them at stalls or small stores.
Also, it is better to buy food ready on the street – it is cheaper, freshly made, well, and we save time. We didn’t have anywhere to cook in hotels, so really all we ate was either in restaurants or take-away. And it paid off for us – we were able to eat lunch for a few yuan and were full, plus we tried the local cuisine.
Of course, there are plenty of grocery stores on the streets (such as. known 7eleven), where you will buy drinks and snacks, so you will not go hungry :) Prices vary, although from our perspective it is cheaper than in Poland (especially if you buy in big hypermarkets), in small kiosks prices are similar to ours. Fast food, both local and Western, is also ubiquitous.
Shopping in China, especially one with a bargain, is quite an experience. A tough but interesting experience. Actually, you can buy a lot of things, cheaper than in Poland, however, in the era of Aliexpress it comes out to the same thing if you buy them online, or at least you save the lifting. The advantage is certainly that everything can be seen, touched, so we can see what the quality of workmanship is, rather than buying a cat in a bag.
Aside from department stores, ordinary grocery shopping was also a challenge, but once you get the hang of it, you can master communicating by sign language to perfection ;)