Most everyone who has travelled has been there. You are walking through the marketplace, and see the perfect thing you want to buy (whether it be food, stuff, trinkets, bangles, or whatever). You ask the price, and you know the next step will be to chip away at the price because it is outlandish. This is what I call, “The foreigner price.” If a local asked the price of the same thing, the price would be 50% or so of what you asked, then they would have to start negotiating. The lowest price you can settle on as a foreigner is about twice the price of a local. This is not a complaint, simply a reality of buying stuff in a market while travelling.
Yesterday I decided to make a big purchase during the National Day sale here in China. I wanted to get an e-bike (electric scooter) to get around town easier. I was going to a store to buy it, not a market, so there were price tags. The same price for everyone. A Chinese friend came with me to ask my questions for me.
I am trying to learn Chinese, so far I can talk numbers. Beyond numbers if the conversation cannot be a single word about, “watch/table/glass/door,” I am pretty much at a loss.
My friend knew the questions to ask, so she asked them. I understood the numbers (how fast, how far), so she didn’t translate for me. Then my friend asked about the price, and was told, “The sale price is firm, we cannot go lower.” My friend started to translate for me, and the saleslady cut in to the conversation, “Who is buying the bike, you or the foreigner?” “The foreigner,” she was told.
Now things changed. “Oh, well then we can change the price. It is 20% cheaper. Also, here are some free gifts.” Then my friend asked about using a coupon which was not valid with sale prices, and was told, “Yes, he can use it.” This was a new experience for me. Usually you try to find a local to buy something for you (with your money) to get a good price. This time it was my status as an outsider which got me the good price. After we left the shop my friend said, “Whenever I buy something in the future, I will bring you so I can get it cheaper than the price tag.”