Tuesday, January 9, 2007

I really need to take negotiations class

I've been haggling a lot recently for purchases, and I seem to always come out the loser. Well I now know a class to take this spring. . .

A couple of weeks ago I went to Shenzhen, which is just over the border, just to say I went to the Mainland (this was before Shanghai). Now, other than business, one goes to Shenzhen for 3 things: to take cheap domestic flights to the rest of China, get massages and manicures cheaper than you could in HK, or shop for all your favorite "brands." Given that I've been tasked by my sister to find some purses, I decided to partake in the latter. I quickly realized that I had no clue what she would like, so I decided to shop for myself.

In the first store I start looking at watches and quickly zero in on one. After some haggling, I get him down from HKD 500 (US$65) for an "A" quality watch to HKD 250 (US$30), which is what I was told was the normal rate. Well when walking around the mall I was able to hear another gweilo get HKD 150 (US$20) for something similar. D'Oh.

Next, I seriously needed some sunglasses and bought a pair for HKD 70 (US$9) after some negotiation down from HKD 300 (US $40) . . . Well, as I'm walking through the mall, another shopkeeper sees my glasses, points at them and say "Another pair? Special price for you! Only HKD 20 (US$2.)" This happened many times through the rest of the day. . . Double D'Oh!

After that I gave up on Shenzhen shopping and vowed I wouldn't return until I improved my skills. Last night I happened to be visting some travel agencies in Mong Kok and decided to do some practicing at one of the famous night markets there (the "Ladies Market" to be specific but yes they sell plenty of mens clothing).

I see this "Billabong" shirt I like in many of the stalls and start haggling. A few stalls advertised the shirt at HKD 39, I try 10. She says 35, I say 15. She says "No more. best offer." I start leaving expecting her to follow after. Nope. Next stall I raise my price to 20 and get a dismissive hand wave and "Harrmph" sound as if I just called her baby ugly.

Next stall the opening begins at $60 (she really wanted to soak the gweilos), when I mention others were offering 35. She says "These Hong Kong shirts, others cheap china crap." Well I doubt her story, I mean its the exact same shirt as the others, I'm sure they have the same supplier. As I turn to leave she says Fine 35, to which I say no 30. We start bickering for a minute or 2 and then I leave. Now, I know its the equivilent of 60 cents, but its the principle of thing, I need the practice!

I try one last time in the last stall before the market ends. Same song and dance, 39. I offer 30, expecting a big fight. Nope, he goes "OK" without any counter or protest. It was too easy, and I'd been had. Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

Like in Macau, you never win at somebody else's game.


Josekin said...

Dude... first of all, why is there comment moderation!?

Bargaining in China and in Hong Kong is very different. In China, virutally everybody has been duped at some point (and I used duped very liberally since the final price is still way under what one would have paid for it had it been sold in the US). Sales ladies have been very good at spotting your price tolerance.

Hong Kong is a whole new different animal. Virtually every shopper is educated; hence the sales people don't try to anchor you too high in the beginning (most shoppers will just walk away and determine the sales is dishonest). You have much less room to negotiate.

Good luck. In general, 10% of the initial offer in China will show the sales that you are an educated shopper. You can settle in the 20% to 30% zone, hopefully.

rich said...

in china, generally . . . go as cheap as you think is possibly reasonable and do the walk if you're not happy. the stuff is usually pretty low quality so you cna get away with a lot. i agree with the first commentor's views on shopping in hong kong. just go for the decent deal as compared to America.

Faisal said...

I feel your pain man. I've been trying to bargain for souvenirs in China, and I feel like I'm the hunted quarry in a bloodsport...