Wednesday, April 7, 2010

At the Xinyang Free Market

I'm at the Xinyang free market in Pudong. I need a hat to keep my head from getting crispy, and I need a waterproof jacket for the rainy season coming in a few weeks.

I find a vendor selling hats, so I go in. I saw hats in Qibao the other day for 10 RMB, but I didn't like the style. I find one here that will do.

“How much?” I ask.



“You're joking.”

I walk out of the stall.

“Wait, wait, wait!” she calls as she runs after me. “OK. Ten.”

(Obviously my initial bid was too high.)

She puts the hat in a bag and I hand her a twenty.

“No change,” she says.

I hand back the hat. She gives me a ten. I just bought a hat for a buck and a half.

I have a harder time finding a jacket. That one's too thick. I need something for springtime. That one's not waterproof. I want a lighter color. I'm saying things in Chinese I didn't even know I knew.

“How long have you lived in China?” the vendor asks.

“Twenty years,” I reply.

(This is a negotiation, not an interview. The truth is irrelevant. What matters is she buys it.)

I try one on, look in the mirror. I really like it. It shows on my face, and she sees it. I have made a tactical blunder.

“How much?” I ask as I take it off.

“Four hundred forty.”


“You're joking.”

I step away, but she pulls me back.

“Make me a serious offer.”


“I give you t-shirt for seventy-five.” She counters with two eighty-five.

“One hundred,” I offer.

“You don't want it,” she says and turns away. She's right. I walk out of the stall.

I check some other vendors.

“You want jacket?” a man asks.

I say yes and follow him. I chat for a while with him and his wife, tell them with utter conviction I've lived in China for twenty years. They keep calling me pengyou—friend.

She shows me exactly the kind of jacket I'm looking for. I try it on. It looks great, but I maintain a poker face. I ask how much.

“American price.” She punches 1850 on a calculator. “Pengyou price.” She drops a thousand.

“Seventy-five,” I counter.

“You're kidding.”

I walk away. They pull me back.

“Look at the quality,” she says. “Famous name brand.”

“One hundred,” I offer.

She drops two hundred.

“One twenty-five.”

She drops another hundred.

“One fifty.”

Four fifty is her final offer. I walk out of the store.

“Wait, wait, wait!”

I have just bought an item, identical in every respect to a Columbia Titanium rain jacket, for twenty-two bucks.

No comments:

Post a Comment