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Market Competition

In China, when something doesn’t have a price tag, you are expected to bargain. There are also some items such as clothes, toys, shoes, bedding… basically anything (except food at the grocery store) that you can ask for an additional discount – even when there is a price tag.

Foreigners should always bargain because our foreignness welcomes a higher price. Being an outsider also means I may not know what a local would pay. If I don’t know the going rate, bargaining is very difficult. If I bid too low, the seller is offended. In the end, I’m never sure if I’ve been taken.

The other day, I needed to go shopping for a larger USB drive. So, I went down to our computer street and walked into the first shop.

Pointing to the 2GB Kingston drive I ask, “How much is this one?”

The shopkeeper stated, “120RMB.”

“Can you go any lower?”


It was then that I had a good idea.

Merriam-Webster defines competition in business as “the effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favorable terms.”

I thanked the seller and walked three feet away.

Pointing to the same model USB drive, I asked the next vendor, “How much?”


“Can you go lower?”


Ten feet away, I made my inquiry with the next seller.


“Oh, really. That’s kind of expensive. That guy over there said 88.”

“Umm…I think we can do 85.”


“How much?”


“That lady said hers was 85.”

“I can do 79.”


“How much?”


“Your neighbor said 79.”

“I’ll do 78.”


In the end, I got the USB drive for 75RMB. I felt rather refreshed from all the exercise and I let the vendors do all the bargaining for me. Market competition.

2 comments to Market Competition

  • Hi – I’ve enjoyed reading your blog of all your Eastern adventures. You tell some great stories and have some of the most amazing photos I’ve seen! You son is adorable and I’m excited for you as you wait for your daughter 🙂

    All the best from another OBU alum 🙂

  • I am going to remember what you said here about bargaining… I am not a ‘fan’ of doing that but will have to just jump in and do it… take care

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