One of the best things about living in China is being able to go to the bargain market anytime you want. For me, in Beijing, the two I frequent the most are Silk Market (near Yonganli subway station), and Yaxiu Market (in Sanlitun). Silk Market is great for affordable designer knockoffs, while Yaxiu is the perfect place to shop for all your Halloween costume and other holiday needs. There is an entire vendor right now on the fourth floor of Yaxiu dedicated to Christmas decorations, including wreaths, stockings, reindeer headbands, Christmas cards, wrapping paper, and more.
I’ve had many people ask me how much they should pay at these bargain markets. Hopefully these tips will help:
Tip #1: Use the <1/3 rule.
Typically, I try not to pay more than 1/3 of the price the vendors give me. For example, I’ve bought several pairs of shoes at Yaxiu. Usually, the starting price is around 400RMB or more. I’ve gotten pairs of shoes for around 60-80RMB. That being said, they don’t often last very long, and I end up wearing them for about one season before I have to buy a new pair. A warning, though; if you look like a foreigner (or sound like one, like I do), you should aim to pay even less than 1/3 of the quoted price. I’ve heard vendors telling foreigners that because the shoes are made of real leather, the price is 700-1000RMB. Ridiculous. Even if they do the lighter trick (they hold a flame to the shoes/bag to prove that it’s real leather), I wouldn’t necessarily believe it. If you have specific questions on what’s reasonable to pay for certain items, ask me in the comments section and I’ll respond to each one.
Tip #2: Give yourself room to wiggle.
Let’s say you want to buy a bag, and the woman selling it to you is telling you to pay 600RMB. According to the <1/3 rule, you should really be paying between 150-200RMB. However, bargaining is a process, and if you’re not prepared to negotiate, don’t expect the vendor to either. Always start lower than your highest price; never name your absolute highest price first, or they may convince you to “just add 10RMB,” and then “just add another 10RMB.” I don’t like to add too much, so I tend to start (in this bag situation), around 120RMB, and would be okay paying up to 160RMB.