The Chinese bargain

Our first port of call during a trip to China was Shanghai.  We set out shopping in the evening at one of those night markets where every conceivable goods were sold. We were part of a group that had ten girl students from an art institute in Ahmedabad. The women went berserk buying T-Shirts, leather boots, handbags and so forth. I went shopping for watches, i-Pods and electronic gadgets.  Though I knew the gizmos were fake, I couldn’t resist picking-up couple of ‘branded’ watches and i-Pods.  And what more, I beat the price down by 25 pc.

It was only when we got back to our hotel that the sharp Gujarati girls told me, “Uncle, you should bargain for 25 pc of the price, not for discount of 25 pc.”  To make matters worse, I discovered none of the watches and i-Pods worked.  They were real fakes!  I swore not to buy anything in China.

My brother-in-law in Ahmedabad called and wanted me to help his wife pick up a golf-set for him. I warned him about all the fake stuff, and told him not to blame me if the set came apart after a couple of rounds. I checked-out golf-sets at every city we visited, but didn't like the pirated clubs.  Finally, when we were in Beijing, my exasperated brother-in-law said, “If you guys can't pick up a golf-set then get me a good golf bag.” 

It was our last day in Beijing and there was hectic shopping. I spotted a golf bag which I liked.  Brother-in-law, who was on the phone, wanted a description of the bag.  I explained: “It has umpteen compartments, a host of side pockets, a stand, concealed wheels, clip for score card, bottle-holder, umbrella-holder… everything except a Global Positioning System!”   “Go for it,” he barked.

Bargaining with the shop-keepers is by using a calculator.  I asked the sales girl - “How much in US dollars for just the bag?”  The bag had a full set of clubs in it.  She was confused and called another salesman.  They conferred with yet another assistant in the shop, and finally punched 750 on the calculator.

Sister-in-law, by now a seasoned bargainer snatched the calculator and punched 100. 

While the sales team came down by 100 dollars at a time, we increased our offer by 5.

When our offer reached 120, I emphatically said “our last price,” and prepared to walk out of the shop.  As expected, they called us back and pleaded for 125 dollars.  With approval from Ahmedabad, the deal was sealed. 

After the payment was made we were flabbergasted when the sales girl smilingly handed over the bag with all the 13 golf-clubs in it!  We looked at each other.  I said, “Let’s vamoose real fast from here.” After our return, a week later I received a phone call from my brother-in-law waxing eloquent about the clubs!  Even now, I kick myself for not having gotten a set for myself.

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