Boy, oh boy!
I am a simple woman who has very few vices, but nothing quite sends my body into absolute ecstasy like the way spending money does. I love it, but it is a guilty pleasure that I have rarely been able to act on. If I had chosen my life, I would be an oil heiress. Every morning I would be woken up to the tune of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 3, a live orchestra, of course, would play this. I would be assisted by a team of servants in tasks ranging in everything from bathing to studying for exams. I would gargle with Chanel No 5 and I would eat diamonds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
That is in theory, but in reality, I am a penny-pinching college student. I count my daily wages as I earn them and assign them to strictly budgeted categories. My daily regiment includes looking for opportunities to save money, and I always worry about unexpected expenses. I am no heiress, but I am me, so that is close enough. You could imagine my delight when I learned that 1 United States Dollar equals approximately 7.06 Chinese Yuan, I was ecstatic. I felt that it would be the first time in my life where I would be able to live comfortably, and I was right.
Expectations vs. Reality
I have grown to love many things about China, but I love their bargaining culture the most. So much so that I literally try to bargain for everything and it works sometimes. As a foreigner, I think that merchants always decide to charge you more because they assume that you have more money. They seem to size a person’s finances up by their physical appearance, and everyone gets different prices.
If I were a merchant, I would take full advantage of this, but as a financially savvy college student, it is one of my favorite games to play. My first bargaining experience was at Hongqiao Market (Pearl Market). I thought that I had done my research; I had watched Youtube videos from bargaining masters such as Collin Abroadcast. I truly believed that I was ready to bargain against those shop owners, and boy was I wrong. I was finessed; I had failed Collin.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
It’s easy to get distracted once you enter the market, all of the shop owners are vying for your attention, and you feel like a celebrity. Shop owners tell you that you are beautiful, sexy and every other compliment from the book. They start with unreasonable prices, such as 500RMB (~$70) for a shirt, I had no experience haggling so I thought that asking for less than half the cost would be a right amount to pay 200RMB (~$28). I was so wrong, at the time I had little understanding of the exchange rate, but once I got hme, I realized how much I had paid.
Next time would be different. I would be ready! They started with the usual compliments, “oh, you’re so pretty,” “oh, you’re so sexy,” but I ignored it. I was only concerned about the price. I wanted to purchase an “I love Beijing” shirt. She started around 500RMB (~$70) for a shirt. I scoffed in her face. I countered to her price with 10RMB (~$1), she looked disgusted at my offer, and I almost burst out laughing.
We went back and forth with the pricing, and we settled on 25RMB (~$3), I had finally won! This power was new to me, and I was able to spend money while also under the impression that I was saving money. I was immediately addicted; I went around the market, racking up deals. I would even bargain for my friends who had joined me at the market. This was one of my most memorable experiences in Beijing, and I would gladly return to the country to cure my bargaining fix.