Bargaining 101

Ever seen the advert where a Chinese man asks a store-keeper for a discount on a R1.50 lollipop? Well, that’s exactly how markets in China operate. Cash is no longer king. It’s all about negotiations and how well you can talk yourself into a cheaper deal. So if you ever plan on visiting China, keep these tips in mind before you start harassing the sales rep for discounts.

1)      Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. Even if (in your mind) you are already getting a huge bargain, chances are you can still drive down the asking price by a significant amount. Don’t be embarrassed either. If you get yelled at, console yourself with the fact that no matter what happens, you are still infinitely better than the person in front of you who makes minimum wage selling sweatshop clothing to needy buyers.

2)      Always do your research. Have an inkling of a clue of what the market price is. Don’t compare the prices with what you would have paid back home and don’t convert the currency. (If you must, convert using purchasing power parity, not the nominal exchange rate.)

3)      Never announce your budget. Ask the sales assistant what the lowest price she is willing to give you and that will serve as a benchmark for the bargaining. Rest assured that the “lowest” price quoted to you is far from the lowest price set by the owner/manager.

4)      Examine the items. My cousin asked for a coffee table to be delivered to her home. After assembling all the pieces, she pointed out several flaws which ranged from a slightly scratched surface to some discolouration that was hardly noticeable. In the end, they only charged her the delivery and assembly fees. Obviously this tactic won’t work for everything, but it’s nice to know that if all else fails, you could set fire to the fabric and claim based on poor quality. (j/k)

5)      Buy more, pay less. As a rule of thumb, if you purchase many items, you can generally get a bigger discount than if you only purchase one. Also, tell them you’ll bring your friends and extended family there even if you don’t have any; free word-of-mouth advertising is rarely turned down.

6)      Take acting lessons. Often times, you will be up against a sales rep who is even more hard headed than you are. In which case, threaten to leave and take your business elsewhere. The more dramatic your faux exit, the better. Of course, don’t actually leave the premises if you really want to buy that fancy gadget. If the rep doesn’t stop you then it is safe to assume that she won’t lower her price any further. That’s when you know you’ve hit the mark.

7)  Finally, if you don’t speak the language, take someone who can.

Hope these tips helped :)


I’ve been in Shanghai for almost 10 days and I’m slowly getting used to the sunless skies, the humidity, the busy streets, and seeing people carry a bunch of 5 meter long bamboo sticks on their shoulders while maneuvering their bicycles through peak traffic. The place still looks the same as it did 5 years ago. The bicycle lane is still there, except that people have started converting their bicycles into little scooters by adding a tiny motor to the back. Some of them are too lazy to remove the pedals so I periodically spot a scooter with self rotating pedals. The subways have expanded quite rapidly, covering almost all the major districts in Shanghai. The public busses have gotten a lot better as well. People no longer have to push and shove to get into a tiny bus with 50 other sweaty Asians.

One of the things I find offputting about Shanghai (and China in general) is the lack of toilet-seats in most public arenas. The cubicles here have a trench like hole in the ground and I have to squat and aim, like a guy, and smell my own urine everytime I pee. I suppose that’s one point for gender equality in an extremely sexist society where doctors are forbidden to tell pregnant women the sex of their children.  Oh, and all social networking sites are blocked by the great firewall. Even proxies don’t work… Perfect.

However, there are some notably awesome things in Shanghai: cheap electronics and delicious foods. I got myself a 2.5″ 640GB external for ~R600 and my cousin’s girlfriend got a Lenovo X201i Thinkpad for ~R6600. If I had the money, I definitely would’ve bought myself one of those too. Prescription glasses retail for about ~R150, but if you bargain, you can get one for ~R80.

I’m having turtle for dinner. :]

5 Days

The world’s biggest sporting event has finally arrived in SA and my parents (in their infinite wisdom) have decided to take a month long holiday to China and skip the World Cup frenzy altogether.  We are leaving this weekend and I, for one, am quite excited not to have another Vuvuzela try to permanently damage my inner ear.  Seeing my family again will be an absolute joy, and I cannot wait for my aunts and uncles to spoil me rotten.

In preparation for the trip, I have made a list of all the things I need to buy in China.

1. A pair of size 4 wellingtons

2. Shades – I have come to accept the sad reality that shades sold in SA are solely for the long-nosed.  Every time I try on a pair, they invariably start sliding down my face as if my nose is non-existent.

3. Reading glasses – A pair of spectacles that cost a couple of thousand can be bought for under R300 in the land of cheap slave labour.

4. Junk food – I was quite surprised to find the other day that they have duck feet vacuum packed in tiny little pockets and are widely available at supermarkets.  Mmm, finger snacks!

5. External hard-drive – Same reason as #3.

6. A big bag – You know, those shiny ones the Commerce girls always use to put their text books in.  To be quite frank, I’ve been envious of their fancy bags for 2 and a half years because the only thing I have for my books is, well, my book bag.  Sure, the double shoulder strap is comfortable and it spreads the weight nicely, but let’s face it: they simply do not compliment  my outfits!

In other news: We will also be buying a 7-day ticket to see the World Expo.  (Wikipedia link)

“It is a World Expo in the tradition of international fairs and expositions. The theme of the exposition is “Better City – Better Life” and signifies Shanghai’s new status in the 21st century as the “next great world city”.  It is the most expensive Expo in the history of the world’s fairs. The Shanghai World Expo is also the largest World’s Fair site ever at 5.28 square km.

More than 190 countries and more than 50 international organizations have registered to participate in the Shanghai World Expo, the largest ever. China expects to receive almost 100 foreign leaders and millions of people from across the world to come and visit the World Expo. More than 70–100 million visitors are expected to visit the expo, which would make it the most visited in history.”

I will be taking tonnes of photos and will update my blog in due course.

In other other news: People have been raving about the Gautrain since it opened its doors for operation.  I guess forking out R100 from the airport to Sandton (or wherever) is nice, but it doesn’t beat paying 40RMB for a trip on a maglev train where the top operational speed is 431km/h. :D

a World Expo in the tradition of international fairs and expositions. The theme of the exposition is “Better City – Better Life” and signifies Shanghai’s new status in the 21st century as the “next great world city“.