8 Tips to Guide You Bargaining in China

One of the many things China is famous for is the many different types of markets all over the country. From gorgeous silk scarves and fashionable clothes, to designer bags and glasses, anything you want to buy can probably be found in any of these colorful markets. Because of this, another thing that China is famous for is its bargaining culture. For the Chinese, bargaining is a way of life. Understandably, this can be daunting for newcomers who are not used to such bargaining. However, if you follow the simple tips below, you can become an expert haggler in no time!

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1. Bargain Only in Markets!

First things first, it must be noted that bargaining is reserved for the markets and is not to be done in large chain stores and department shops. Haggling takes energy! If you find bargaining too strenuous a task, you can always go back to the shiny shopping malls on the Chinese inner city streets.

2. Be Resilient and Shrewd to Get the Best Price!

The main problem you will find with the market proprietors is that once they know you’re a foreigner, their prices rocket right up. The proprietors will try to sweet talk you, call you pretty or handsome, declare you as their friend and insist that you speak amazing Chinese. However, you must keep focused and remain resilient in order to get the best price for your item. Don’t allow body language to show how interested you are as this can be a dead giveaway for the sellers; a look and attitude of mild disinterest is the best mood to go for.

3. Be Cautious in Making Your Offer!

Always let the proprietor start with their price. This way, when you begin to haggle, it is up to them to accommodate your price and not the other way around. Next, offer them 10% of their starting price. Now, this is when the real haggling starts. If you need to up your price, some good advice is to do so in increments of 20’s rather than 100’s or 50’s to avoid paying more than you really have to.

4. Point Defects Out!

Another top tip to remember: don’t be afraid to point out defects in the items you want to buy in order to get a better price. Find something about the product you may not be fully satisfied with. You won’t be offending the proprietors; they know it is all part of the bargaining game.

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5. Be Careful of Mind Games!

Often, sellers will show great disappointment at the prices you offer, but do not take it personally. All these expressions are little mind games sellers often play to get you to increase your price. Don’t get caught out!

6. The Best Time to Shop

Late afternoon/early evening is definitely the ideal time to go and hunt for a bargain as it’s the end of the day and everyone is almost ready to go home. Sellers drop their prices significantly, and are more willing to haggle and tend to accommodate lower offers.

7. Bring Along a Good Chinese Speaker!

One thing you may want to consider doing is to take a good Chinese speaker along with you, if you can. Not only will the prices be lower, but you will also be able to haggle much more effectively. Going with a large group of people is also a good idea since you will be able to order bulk deals with the proprietors and get an overall volume discount. If you don’t know any fluent Chinese speakers, you can learn all the necessary bargaining vocabulary in our Survival Chinese Classes.

8. You Can Also “Walk Away”

When it comes to bargaining in China, the most powerful tool is to “walk away.” Often, the proprietor will call you back and be more willing to accept your offer. If not, there will always be someone else in a different market stall willing to give you a more reasonable price for the produt you want to buy.

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The next time you head out in search for bargains, remember these simple tips and you’ll be well on your way to getting some fantastic and first-rate deals!

Ivan Chao

Ivan is a Chinese teacher at That’s Mandarin Chinese Language School, and is experienced in teaching Mandarin to students of all ages. Read more of Ivan’s articles at That’s Mandarin.