My style to explore a city is to vaguely set a goal (e.g. a famous road or landmark), use public transport and let me drift through the city. So this evening I set my eye on 天安门广场
. I didn't go to the Forbidden City, just stand outside, since they are closed after working hours (mental note: come back as tourist). I walked down Chan'an Avenue
, well equipped with an umbrella taking in Beijing's vibes. I ended up at the Silk Street Pearl Market
(That is about 3-4km distance).
It is a six story building divided in endless 2-10 square meter stores selling everything from textiles, shoes, bags, leather ware, toys, (fake) watches, jewelry, pearls and art. The sales girls on the textile floors try to trump each other in attracting customers by luring them with English as it is broken to look at stuff. If you are prepared for it, it is hilariously funny
. Equipped with a calculator they invite you to bargain for their wares. Of course their initial price it at least 3 times the real sales value (more rather 4-5 times). They even assure you, that you are a nice guy and therefore didn't get another ridiculous price. I'm not very good at bargaining, but that shop could become my training ground. Once I mentioned, that my wife is Chinese (without explaining Singapore-Chinese vs. Chinese-Chinese) all prices instantly dropped by 40-50%. After buying a few things I think I learned a few lessons: even if you get 80% discount from the starting price it is very likely that you overpaid. Being a Caucasian male doubles the starting price. It seems to be a code of honor between the sales girls, that once you started to bargain, that they have to close the deal. So when you start making moves to leave prices drop again. Then the biggest lesson: it is a 1005 buyers market. I actually don't need any of the items (skipping 2 fancy dinners instead would save me more money), but the sales girls must
sell. That's their reason for existence. So you can change the game from: she tells her price, you tell your price and you meet in the middle to: you set your price and it is deal or no deal. Of course for the sake of the ritual you give in once or twice, meaning the price you set mentally would be slightly higher that was your first statement is. The bargaining is a ritual and it is important for the girls to look like they are actually driving a hard bargain. But once you reach your price you actually will get it (at least if you are soft like me and set it way to high). Great fun to be on the power side of the bargain. Next time I'll bring the camera.