Understanding Chinese Social Relations and Bargaining Tactics through a Shoe Purchase
While trekking through the dirty and sandy conditions of the Tiger Leaping Gorge, I noticed that both of my shoes had large holes in the soles. Thus, when Liz and I were walking around the outdoor market in Shaxi, and I saw a man selling some shoes at the market in Shaxi, I decided to spring for them. I tried on a few asking the man how much they were, making sure to seem unimpressed with the way they fit. Rule #1 of bargaining in China is seeming like you are completely unimpressed with the sellers products. After finding a suitable pair, we began discussing price. He started off at 65 RMB ($10), I turned to Liz, and asked her (in English, so the man couldn’t understand) what she had seen this type of shoe going for, she said something around 50 RMB-ish ($7.60). I countered with 30 RMB ($4.60). Rule #2, It’s really too hard to go too low, but if you do go too low, then you’ve got a big problem on your hands because the seller will stop listening to you and to regain their interest you have to seem like you’re actually interested in them, which may double what you have to pay. We eventually settled on 40 RMB ($6.10), which maybe too much, but they are durable shoes, as probably about half of the Chinese peasantry and migrant laborers wear some variation of them.
After exchanging money, he began laughing and engaging me in small talk before offering me a cigarette. I declined, as politely as possible, as this is a gesture of intimacy between Chinese men, offering a wave of , “I’m sorry, please excuse me.” Rule #3, when bargaining, a person is never truly themselves, one jumps into a game mode, it’s a competition of reading the person and the situation as quickly as possible.