Bartering Tips

There is a delicate art to bartering. It is like a well rehersed script between buyer and seller. A game to test the limits of one another. And the backstreets of Hong Kong offer a wide selection of dedicated players.

The city never sleeps, it bubbles with life into the wee hours and sometimes longer. In the winding side streets that fall away from main roads, vendors set up shop. They sell anything and everything for the highest price they can get. Everything from laser lights on key chains to handmade Chinese teapots -- and even the amateur barterer knows to never take the first price offered.

Our family had the whole thing worked out. We were a finely tuned team, and by the end of our short stint in Hong Kong we were well known throughout the markets. Cassidy learned to bargain for things quickly. She played with the little English the shopkeeps knew and pleaded that she needed an operation and she might die soon. How she only wished that she could have (fill in the blank) and she only had (less than half the asking price) of Honkies (Hong Kong dollars).

A few tips that we learned:

1. Cruise like a shark. Compare prices all the way down the row before "going in for the kill."

2. Decide before you engage in bargaining how high you are willing to pay, and be prepared to not get it.

3. It helps if you have two people to play "good cop, bad cop." One person really wants something (be sure to ramble on about how wonderful it is) while the other is uninterested, thinks it's overpriced, and wants to leave. Watch the price drop!

4. I've heard it said that in Chinese culture, merchants believe that the last sale of the day is very important. It will bring luck if they can make it. In Hong Kong the older merchants seemed to beleive this still, but most of the younger merchants were oblivious.

5. Be sure to help out merchants that have given you a good deal. We made sure to give encouraging words to other people contemplating a purchase from nicer vendors.

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