Monday, October 12, 2009

Gina vs the Vendor

Bargaining at markets in Asia is fun for tourists. It's like a little game with Monopoly money. But when you live here, and you go with a mission to find something specific you actually need, it becomes like a show down at the OK Corral.

I went today looking for a fall jacket, shoes for cold weather other than the one pair I bought at Target about ten years ago, and a silver chain. I found these particular shoes in black leather and had that, "I must have these" feeling, while simultaneously trying to look only mildly interested. This is when the guns got drawn (cue The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly theme song):

First, the women try to convince me that it doesn't really matter what size shoe I wear. These are close enough. I counter with "they fit right or I walk." They find my size (this is a very abbreviated version of what happened. In reality, I saw about 4 pairs of shoes in two different colors).

Somewhere in the midst of finding a complete pair of size 7 shoes (these run small!) I inquire as to price. 500Y. My eyes narrow, just like in the Old West. I chuckle, and tell her she must be joking. She draws her calculator so we can bargain without others hearing. She drops to 480. This is where I leave the store.

Ah, but she grabs me and pulls me back in. I was prepared for this. I give her my highest price, 200. Her eyes narrow. She pulls out the calculator again. 450, 200, ok, ok friend, best price 400. 200, 375, 200, 350. I step away to field a phone call from my piano tuner, most of which I don't understand, but it impresses the vendor to hear me speak more Mandarin. She counters with her final price: 275. I stick to my 200 guns. She begins pleading with me to come up a little. She even drops down to 270. I'm weakening - my desire for the shoes and to be done with this transaction causes me to break my cardinal rule of never budging from my initial price: 210. That's all she needs - 220, she's reaching for a bag. The deal is done.

We wipe the sweat from our brows and promise to be good friends in future face offs.


Andrew said...

is it naieve to think that this sounds fun? i mean... what a great way to practice! and probably the more colloquial you sound, the better, no?

Gina Marie said...

No, it's not necessarily naive, but it does get old after awhile. Yes, the more you use Mandarin and the more colloquial you sound, the better price you'll get (or so they say). They obviously know you're not a foolish rich foreigner willing to part with all your money. I'm sure I still pay more than a Chinese person, but as long as I feel like it's a good deal, I'm happy. You'll have fun doing it I'm sure! Get yourself over here! :)