Shopping in Beijing, China – scoring the best deal

We all know that items made in China tend to be far more affordable than the average moolah. Presidential debates have centered around how there is such a big disparity in prices between items from China and those from anywhere else. Perhaps due to the price, people also believe the products to be more inferior. But the truth is, you can pretty much get a hit or miss on this.

Beijing 2011 091(Did you think this was the only kind of shopping you would find in China?)

In Beijing, there are tons of places to shop (obviously), but the one I ended up liking the most is the area of Wangfujing. You can see a list of other places to shop and products they specialize in here. Its a pedestrian only area with a large walkway. They sometimes also do photography exhibitions on the street. What’s cool about this place is that to the left and right of the street there is a line of malls which sell a range from local brands, to foreign brands.

Beijing 2011 079(Wangfujing shopping street. Easily accessible by the subway)

It also is home to some good Sichuan and duck restaurants and my favorite feature of all, the Wangfujing snack street. Its a small entryway (just follow the crowd of people heading in that direction) which opens up into an amazing small street filled with Chinese snacks and delicacies (deep fried scorpians anyone?).

Beijing 2011 084(Entrance to the Wangfujing snack street. Blink and you might miss it)

Beijing 2011 086(Yummy delicacies?)

It was in Wangfujing that I scored a pretty amazing shopping deal. I was shopping early in the morning, and was walking around the sleepy mall. I walked into a leather jacket store, and was mesmerized by a soft pink leather jacket. This was back when colored leather was slowly coming back in and I had been mesmerized and hunting down a similar pink leather dress worn by Zoe Saldana to the opening of Colombiana.

zoe-saldana-fashion-style-valentino-coral-leather-dress-getty-prp(I drooled over this soft pink leather dress)

So as I longingly gazed at the leather jacket, the saleslady suggested I try it on. Perhaps it was not the best idea as she immediately barraged me with the price (which was >USD1,000 by the way) even though the jacket was the softest pink leather I’ve tried. I negotiated down half-heartedly since I figured there was no way I was going to be able to afford it. This went on back and forth pretty much by the two of us punching in figures into her little calculator (since we didn’t speak a common language) and her pestering me to buy it. Exasperated and wanting to leave I finally said, ‘Fine, 200 dollars, last offer’.

The saleslady looked at me like I was insane. And so I shrugged my shoulders, told her that was as much as I could afford, and prepared to walk out the shop. Just as I was about to step out, the saleslady called me back with the most sour of expression and told me that fine, I could have it for that price. But she was so pissed off with me she didn’t even bother to ring it up or pack it up. Another lady had to do it.

???????????????????????????????(Me with my spoils of war)

See, part of the reason why I could do this is because the Chinese have a superstition that your first customer has to buy something, to bring you luck for the rest of the day. My being the first customer in, and walking away without buying anything would have seriously been considered to bring bad luck to the saleslady, which is probably why she felt that she had to do it, or risk not getting enough business the rest of the day.

My sister had done this before as well. She actually did wait right outside a camera shop for it to open up. As soon as it did, she was the first customer in. She immediately went in, chose her camera and drove a hard bargain down. In the end, she got it for pretty much below what she had expected to pay.

In both situations, the prices had clearly been marked in price tags. So in short, when shopping, always hunt around, prepare to bargain (even when you’re not sure if you can since prices are on price tags), and if you’re the first customer in, and are hounded by sales people, try to understand where they’re coming from and drive down a good price!

***Note: I do not guarantee this will always work shopping in China or in a store manned by a Chinese. I also do not guarantee that you will not have water thrown in your face if you decide to insult them by offering them something like a dollar. The price should be fair and not insulting to them, but hey, doesn’t hurt to try bargaining anyway right?