China Trip – Beijing – Hong Qiao Pearl Market
Hong Qiao Pearl Market
I need to preface this post by saying that I do not consider myself a big shopper. In fact, I am fairly frugal, saving money so that I can afford to travel whenever I get the opportunity. So, when our guide told us that we had four and a half hours to shop in this multilevel, multi-building complex, I was a bit perplexed. What was I going to do for four and a half hours?
Entrance to the market with our guide, Michelle
Starbucks on the first floor of the market – our meeting place
We were told that, with the exception of Fanghua, a world-famous pearl jeweler, we should not pay the suggested price for anything in this market. We had to bargain with the salespeople! Well, for those of you that know me well, I am a bit shy when it comes to people I do not know well! That being said, let the adventure begin:
I started my journey at Fanghua because I wanted to buy my mother and sister pearl jewelry – no bargaining here! The young saleswoman was very attentive and helpful, even making suggestions on the size of pearls I should purchase based-on my mother’s and sister’s ages – who knew?
I wanted to buy a classic pearl necklace for mom, and the saleswoman aided me in selecting a string of pearls, which she then threaded and knotted by hand. It was fascinating watching her deftly string the pearls onto the silk thread and tie the knots with a speed I can only describe as superhuman! After she assembled my mother’s necklace, she helped me select a beautiful pair of earrings for my sister. Several other of my fellow travelers also purchased pearl jewelry at Fanghua.
Stringing my mother’s pearl necklace
Next up, our guide took us to a separate building that housed a toy market. I was hoping to find gifts for my niece and nephew. The market consisted of cramped stall after cramped stall of every variety of toys one could imagine! It looked as if a giant Toys-R-Us had vomited on the entire first floor of the building. I found a Chinese police car for my nephew (I have been buying him toy cars from each country that I visit). I was only able to bargain the vendor down from ¥65 ($10.50) to ¥50 ($8.00). Not a successful bargain, but I’ll admit, I didn’t try too hard. I was hoping to find a Chinese girl plush doll for my niece but was unsuccessful. I did end up purchasing two three-dimensional wood puzzles, originally ¥100 ($16.00) each, and I was able to bargain the price down to ¥80 total ($13.00)!
Onto the last market of the day! Our guide took us back to the first building and suggested that we go upstairs, where there was every variety of merchandise one could want! I was hoping to get a nice ink pen for my father, a Chinese chop for my brother-in-law and Christmas tree ornaments for all of my immediate family. On the way to the area with all of those items, we passed a silk area. I also wanted to get several souvenirs for coworkers and friends, so I stopped there. My fellow travelers were also interested in buying silk gifts. I ended up buying five “kimono-style” wine cozies, and a set of chopsticks with silk sleeves all for a price much lower than the original asking price! I was getting better at the whole bargaining thing.
Finally, we made it to the area that would end up being our final stop of the day. I found a nice white and blue porcelain pen for my father, which I purchased for about two-thirds the original asking price. At about that time, I encountered a young German couple, and the girl encouraged me to be much more aggressive in my bargaining. She had a shoe vendor go from ¥200 to ¥40 easily! With that encouragement, I was ready to buy a chop for my brother-in-law and me. The chops started out at ¥160 each, and, after much haggling and walking away once, I was able to get the very young saleswoman to agree to a total of ¥100 for both – that ends up being about 30% of the original asking price! I also bought three Cloisonné Christmas ornaments, which were originally ¥100 each, for a total of ¥90! I am guessing that the merchandise was worth even less, so I paid more than I should have, but it was still fun haggling. The young saleswoman would pout and say the product was worth more, I would start to walk away, and she would grab my arm and hand me a calculator to ask me to type my “final offer.” I would type a low number, and she would offer a price much higher. I would stick with my low number, and she would offer a price a little lower than her previous offer. This would go on until I got my original low number, which tells me I probably should have started a lot lower. Empowered with bargaining confidence, I also helped Becky, one of my fellow travelers, get a gift for her husband at a much lower price than she would have paid.
All-in-all, I easily spent four and a half hours shopping and enjoyed every minute of the bargaining experience.