Bargaining: A Dying Art

Katie McGee
March 13, 2016
Fish at a traditional market

Hey everyone!

As far as I know, China is famous for its bargain markets and knockoffs. People who travel to China enjoy going to the markets and buying knockoff bags and electronics for cheap, while simultaneously testing their bargaining skills, which are not often used in the US, if at all. The thing is, during the time I have spent in China at the bargain markets (which is a lot, because I like buying cheap things as much as the next person), I have noticed that 9 out of 10 times my fellow customers at these markets are foreigners. That is, bargaining seems to be less and less popular. The culprit, of course, is online shopping. Nowadays, it is possible for Chinese people to buy the items they want from trustworthy sources for much cheaper than anything they could find in stores. Because of this, young people especially are buying all of their things online instead of in stores. 

Traveling has also become much more accessible to the Chinese, and with their newfound mobility, many Chinese have begun traveling overseas for the purpose of shopping for high-end items. That’s right. Those Prada shoes and Louis Vuitton bag you’ve had your eye on but have decided are out of your price range? Well they’re so much more expensive here that the Chinese are more willing to buy a plane ticket, fly halfway across the world, and buy them in bulk to bring back for their friends and family. As a traveler, the idea of traveling simply for the purpose of buying brand-name items seems so odd.

The knockoff marketplaces are not the only places where the frequency of bargaining has declined. From what I’ve heard, bargaining used to be commonplace in traditional fresh food markets as well. If you’ve never been to one, these markets are like farmer’s markets but without quite so many food safety regulations (so the Chinese version of a farmer’s market - food safety in general is much much less strict here). For example, walking through a market you will find fruits and vegetables, of course, but also you are likely to see raw meat sitting out or hanging from hooks,as well as fish and other sea animals in various stages between alive and dead. When I visited one of these markets with one of my classes, as we were walking past one of the seafood stands, we witnessed a guy gutting what I’m pretty sure was an eel (there were a few small bins of live eels next to where he was working). Right on the other side of the isle was a beautiful spread of fresh vegetables. Not something that you would see in the US. Anyways, when we visited this market we didn’t hear very much bargaining going on, although I’m pretty sure our teacher had brought us with the expectation that there would be bargaining going on. After we left, he mentioned that the Chinese government has begun advertising selling prices for various food items in public places, which might explain why bargaining for food has become a much less common occurrence. I would guess that bargaining is probably still practiced in smaller cities and villages, but it seems that it is a dying skill here in the giant cities of China. It seems that it will soon become an activity only for the tourists.

That’s all for now, until next time!

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Katie McGee

<p>Hello! My name is Katie McGee, and I am a junior at the University of Puget Sound, located in Tacoma, WA. I am a Chinese major with a Japanese minor and a Global Development Studies emphasis. I am a Chinese adoptee, and although my parents did their best to expose me to Chinese culture as a child, I grew up in a community with very little diversity. I have devoted this year to traveling East Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Mainland China, and Japan) and improving my Chinese along the way. I have already learned so much during my travels, but continue to look forward to what adventures lay ahead.</p>

2016 Spring
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