The Pearl Market


So before I continue this post, I have to give some background. The whole time I have been in this country I have been ripped off! By my first taxi driver (remember that), by the street vendors in the city, and most especially by the souvenir sales people in all the tourist traps we’ve visited! Part of the reason for this is that most vendors expect you to haggle for what you want, but when I see the vendors sitting on the side of the road simply trying to scratch out a living I feel so bad saying no or fighting for a reduced price, so I usually settle for a sub par deal. But the major reason is because I am a foreigner who looks like easy prey (again, the taxi driver), and unfortunately I have been easy pickings. I don’t’ like to haggle, I hate faking a walk away, and I get really uncomfortable when the vendors pressure me to make a decision. They have some pretty tricky tactics. While you walk past a stand, many of them will call out to you, beckoning you to buy a hat or some sunglasses for a cheap price. If you’re close enough, some will approach you and wave a souvenir fan in your face (refreshingly) or try to direct you towards their stall. I even had a women try to drag me by the arm to buy her silk tapestries. Once you’re at a stand, often times the attendant will hover over your shoulder. They may say nothing, or they may encourage you to buy everything you lay your eyes on. And at worst, they may position themselves behind you so that there is no route for escape, besides depleting your wallet. These tricks are heavily employed on foreign tourists, and I fell for all of them at one point or another. So when a small group of us decided to visit Beijing’s Pearl Market, I was determined to fight back for all of the times I’d lost out, keeping in mind that the vendors at the Pearl Market, a popular spot for international tourists, were inflating all of their prices.

We took the subway to the Pearl Market, which I had chosen over the more famous Silk Market because they were an equal distance from the University and the Pearl Market was across the street from the historic Temple of Heaven which we could visit after finding our deals. After eating lunch at the market, we began our business endeavors. I was at first very afraid to approach a stall or even make eye contact because we were being yelled at from all sides. I finally bucked up the courage to ask one vendor to see her silk scarves. She immediately overwhelmed me with her entire selection (a tactic that made me feel guilty to walk away after she had put all that effort into pulling merchandise out), and when I final picked one the battle had begun. We haggled a bit, and I had to fake walk away three times, but as I made another offer another customer approached the stall and partially drew away the attention of the vendor, saving me from an endless struggle. She quickly finished my transaction and moved on, and I left with a scarf I had greatly reduced from the original price. I felt so good about my deal that I was ready to make more throughout the market. There were multiple stories to the building, and the higher we ascended the more expensive the merchandise became, ending with massive jewels on the top most floor. While I was there, I was able to buy a knockoff travel suitcase, some silk souvenirs, and another scarf, all for a pretty reasonable price. While I admit I wasn’t the best at haggling for the best price, I did much better than I had expected, and feel confident enough to go back again and try a little harder.

When we left the Pearl Market it was raining so we chose not to visit the Temple of Heaven and headed home instead. Shopping in America tires me out, so having to travel halfway across the city by subway to haggle for my wallet’s life was exhausting. We got home, had dinner, and I went to bed, reveling in my spoils of war.

– Jakim Johnson, 纪家盛