Monday, September 01, 2008

The Laowai Tax

People who live here a long time, including foreigners, dread going to markets that are frequented by tourists. It has nothing to do with nationality, insider-outsider, or anything like that (well ,maybe just a little bit...). Rather, like most things, it comes down to cash. Simply put, lots of waiguoren equals artificially high prices, even for experienced bargainers.

This past Sunday, we did our part to put money in the pockets of merchants by visiting this one gigantic market. Take the biggest flea market you have ever seen and put it on steroids. You get the idea.

We needed some pretty basic stuff...hair dryer, electric razor, dish rack, lunch bags for the kids. That sort of stuff. We did our best to save as many kuai as we could, but we know we paid too much.

Here's one example. At this one stall, some pretty nice lunch bags we being quoted by a merchant at 80 kuai. We went back and forth. I tried to get it for 30, and then went up to 40 (less than 7 bucks). When he said no, we started to walk away and that did the trick. I felt like it wasn't bad...half the original quote.

Then we walked down the next aisle and came across a seller with the exact same bags. Julie was asked by this merchant how much we got our bag for. I told Julie to say "san shi wu kuai." (Thirty five kuai.) That was good enough. We had the second bag we were looking for.

For sure, we paid 5 kuai too much for the first one. How much more could we have gotten off both? Obviously, we need better bargainers to help us discover the answer.

~Steve

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