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  • Cam Woodsum
  • "Any negotiation tips for Flea Markets in China?"

Cam Woodsum

Boston, Massachusetts

Any negotiation tips for Flea Markets in China?

I'm an American going to Beijing/Xi'an/Shanghai for 9 days with my girlfriend. Would love to get some advice on which flea markets to go to and what the negotiation norms are in China.

Thanks in advance!

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  • Courtney R.

    Courtney R.

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    Side Road of E. 3rd Ring Road South, Chaoyang Beijing 86 10 5120 4671

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  • Adam Bowers

    top answer by

    One of the most valuable tools for me when bargaining in China was learning the number system. When merchants heard me using their number system they tended to think I knew the language and wasn't going to be fooled into paying too much. I was travelling with others, though we didn't always look like we were in the same group. I consistently got much lower prices bartering in Mandarin than the others did in English.

    For an extra bonus, start in English and when they refuse, switch to Mandarin on the fly and watch their reaction! Asking for the same price in English then Mandarin, I got my offer price when using Mandarin. I'm not fluent at all but I learned the number system quite well and it was invaluable.

    I also tended to get lower initial asking prices when asking in Mandarin than English. My fellow travelers often paid three times as much when I wasn't with them.


    Here's a page with some helpful bartering words: http://www.askbennychinese.com/learnings/detail/exp-wht-20070014?h=Let%27s+Bargain+-+Too+Expensive!+Cheaper!

    And here is a great page with pronunciation for Mandarin numbers: http://mandarin.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/numbers.htm


    Practice a lot before you go and you'll be able to barter entirely in Mandarin and get much better deals!


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    • Brew J.

      Brew J.

      Phenomenal answer. Wow. · (0 likelikes)

    • Susan H.

      Susan H.

      I've actually seen my foreign friends do very well bargaining 100% in English at Beijing's Silk Market. The trick is to engage in an honest negotiation, and then walk away like you don't care about it anymore. 9 times out of 10 they will call you back, and if they don't, you'll probably very easily find another stale selling the same thing and you can start your negotiation there with the base price quoted by the other place. · (0 likelikes)

    • Adam B.

      Adam B.

      Susan, you are correct. Bargaining in English is better than not bargaining at all. You will still do quite a bit better if you learn some Mandarin. ;) Great tip about shopping around and referencing other shop's prices though! That is very effective in any language. · (0 likelikes)

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  • Joey Bellon

    answered by

    Hey Cam,

    I spent 2 weeks in Beijing and Jinan areas this past summer and I'll definitely say that the days we spent through the markets were the best! The markets around Beijing are commonly found in hutongs, or narrow streets or alleys. Some of the best we found were right outside of the Forbidden City walls. This works out great because you can spend an afternoon in the walls and the rest of the day outside!

    Honestly, I can't remember exactly where they are directionally, but they're hard to miss as they are literally RIGHT outside of the walls to the Forbidden City. I want to say to the north and east, but don't quote me on that. I'll put a link to a great article I found highlighting (and giving general directions to) great markets in hutongs around Beijing. Note the first one about the Forbidden City.

    Link: http://agendabeijing.com/back-alley-bounty-guide-to-beijings-best-hutongs/

    As far as negotiations in these shops, I felt like almost everything was negotiable. Most places seemed to mark up the price an immense amount expecting to negotiate. I would say, do not be afraid to say no on something you want if they are being stubborn on the price. More often than not, they will stop you from walking out and come down. If not, you can probably find it at a different shop.

    Good luck and have fun! China is awesome!


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    • Brew J.

      Brew J.

      Great tips · (0 likelikes)

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  • Ed Hsieh

    answered by

    It's not unreasonable to be able to get things at 10-30% of the original asking price of the seller, depending where you are and what the products are. When you ask how much, they'll say some ridiculously marked-up tourist price, then say 'No, too much!' and offer something maybe 1/4 or less of what they say. They'll say something along the lines of 'No way!' and counter with something below their original price. Stand firm with your price or give in a little, depending how much you want to pay. When they indicate that they can't go any lower to meet your price, just start walking away. Most of the time, as you walk away they'll shout after you and drop the price or ask what price you'll take. Go in for the kill and try to get your bottom line price then.

    Since lots of merchants sell the same stuff you can try out different tactics on different ones to see what approach works best for you

    As a reference, I've spent around 1.5 years living and working in China, mostly in Beijing, Chengdu, Tianjin and Jinan, but have traveled to many cities there and haggled with many a street merchant there

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  • JJ D

    answered by

    The Silk Street Market in Beijing is probably the biggest one. Unfortunately, being a foreigner means they'll try to get more money out of you whether you haggle or not. The best thing to do is do a sweep of the entire market first, as you'll often find multiple vendors carrying the same product. This way you can compare prices before you start negotiating. Realistically, you can usually haggle for about 40-50% off. Some vendors will cut their prices if they see you heading toward a competitor stall.

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  • Manning Field

    answered by

    lived in Beijing for 4 years. go to dirt market, and avoid the markets where tourist buses pull up. always start at 10% of original bid and never pay more that 25%. also walk away alot. but never enter a negotaition just for fun. have serious intent to close. if the accept your price you must pay

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  • Billy Lu

    answered by

    Hello, I am a local resident in Xian and I have worked in a travel agency for 2 years. Hope my answer could help you.

    In Beijing, the best flea market you could go is Silk Street Market. In xian, the Muslim Quarter is a place you must go. In shanghai, the tianzifang and New Spot are all some famous places you could easily find a flea market.

    About the tips, usually you could bargain with the vendor and the price will be lower for about half.

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  • Leo Li

    answered by

    Panjiayuan Flea Market

    is the most famous one in Beijing. There is lot of old stuff and handicraft. Usually the price is less half then the owner's offer.

    Hope this will help you.

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  • Robert Mao

    answered first by

    Cut whatever price in half or 1/3.

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  • Gina Gao

    answered by

    The Silk Road or Panjiayuan Flea Market in Beijing are definitly the places to go. I would suggest bargain start with 1/2 price.

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  • Tara Goldsmith

    answered by

    Hi there,

    I usually go to the Hong Qiao Pearl Market which is very close to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. My best tip is to reduce the price as much as possible then walk away. The Chinese wont let you go and they will give you asking price. ( They are worried about losing face or sale.)

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  • Alex Huang

    answered by

    Negotiation could start with half price they offer and not more than 3/4 of the quotation.

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  • Kevan Gibbs

    answered by

    If they start at $100 you say $20... and don't go pass $40...

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