I experienced my first ever, real life, Chinese bargaining showdown today at a market in Pudong.
There are tons of markets all over Shanghai where they sell pretty much anything you could imagine ever even thinking about wanting such as a personalized parasol, a tapestry of a fat panda in the forest, or some Russian nesting dolls that look like Chinese people. I had a goal today, though, and that goal was some good old-fashioned knockoff handbags.
Honestly, I'm completely against knockoffs in the States. It's not so much a snob thing, because it doesn't really matter to me if I can tell someone is wearing a fake Gucci or not (and trust me, purse people can tell). There's just something about me knowing that the handbag I'm wearing isn't genuine that I don't like. So if I can't afford it, I just don't buy it. It's that simple.
I didn't bring any of my nice purses here, mainly because I didn't want them to get filthy from the extremely polluted air or by using them on a day to day basis and setting them down on dirty streets at restaurants or Metro seats. I brought one black leather bag because I figure, even if the leather gets affected by the pollution, it won't show it like a fabric bag or something.
The only problem is, the black leather bag has a magnetic closure which is cute and fun, but not very safe or practical for a city of 20 million people who all crowd onto the Metro with me at 6 PM.
wanted needed something that was big, had a large enough strap to throw over my shoulder, and had a zip all the way along the top. I also didn't want to spend an arm and a leg on it, because what's the point? I'd rather have something I wouldn't be broken up about getting ruined, since it probably will be ruined after 10 months here.
When scoping out the market, the purse that seemed to best suit all my purchase qualifications was a LeSportsac. Of course, they have about 300 different fabric options to choose from, and at least 100 different stalls selling the same kind of stuff, so just finding a place with the fabric/style I wanted took a while.
And remember, these vendors are trying to maintain the guise that these are "best quality! Very authentic! Real! Straight from manufacturer!" So it's not like they have a huge sign saying "fake bags, super cheap!" They're trying to pawn them off as the real thing, baby. Obviously, most people know better, but some of the higher end fakes were still very pricey (like Chloe or D&G).
Currently, it's about 1USD to every 7RMB, so if you're paying 21RMB for something, that's only 3 bucks in the states. HOWEVER, I am making way below poverty level in the states (salaries in China are no where close to salaries in the US because it's so much cheaper to live here), so you can't really have the "Well it's only ___ in the US" mindset when shopping. Vendors are asking you for RMB and they expect you to be thinking in terms of RMB, not dollars.
I wanted two LeSportsac bags. One large one with a poppy pattern (I LOVE poppies!) and a small one with an art deco-ish bird pattern. Initially, the woman quoted me over 400RMB for the two. We checked out purse vendors near-by, and it seemed like this was pretty much the "going rate" for these purses.
But, Chinese vendors expect you to bargain with them. In fact, they would be slightly offended if you didn't. I say slightly because I'm sure there immense happiness over making a ton more money on a item they would have sold at a 1/4 of the asking price tends to outweigh any feelings of offense. Still, it's a customary thing to do and the vendors are expecting you to do it.
My advice: totally low-ball them. Whatever they say, respond with an offer of about 20% of that price. They'll act offended and dismayed that a person would even think of offering such a low price, but they'll continue to bargain with you until you both reach a price you have agreed on. Generally, you should stay in the 25%-35% range from the initial asking price, definitely never over 50%. And if one vendor is acting extremely non-willing to work with you, just remember, this is China, there's tons of fake stuff to sell, and tons of Chinese people who will be willing to do it.
They say 400RMB? Shoot back with "Hm, I'll only go for 50RMB" This will bring on a lot of huffing and puffing by the vendor, who will sometimes even grab you and say "LADY YOU CRAZY!!!! THIS IS BEST QUALITY!! 5 ZIPPERS!" Then she'll get out her calculator and type some numbers on it and hand it over to you with 320 on the screen, insisting "THIS BEST PRICE! I GIVE TO YOU!". Then you'll be like "Oh, I dunno....I don't even need zippers....I mean what are zippers, anyway?...." and sort of walk out of the stall, where she'll grab you and shout "WHAT BEST PRICE FOR YOU, TELL ME!!!" and you'll say 50 again, and she will shout and call you lady and say "THIS IS JOKE! THAT IS JOKE PRICE!"
This back and forth will continue for several minutes, she'll come down lower in her price, probably like 120RMB or so, and then you'll say something like "No, I'm only willing to spend 60RMB." and then she'll say 85, and you'll say 70, and then she huff and buffs and calls you lady some more until you start to walk out then she runs after you and says "OK OK! JUST FOR YOU!!! JUST FOR YOU I GIVE YOU THIS DEAL!! GEEZ LADY!" And then you'll walk away with two totally cute, albeit totally fake, LeSportsac purses for 70RMB, and everyone (i.e. me) is happy.
XOXO & potstickers,