How to Bargain Shop in China

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Now that you have your Chinese numbers down, it’s time to put them to good use…shopping time!

In China, there are basically two types of shopping situations: ones in which you can bargain, and ones in which you cannot (or at least not very effectively.) For shopping mall stores like UNIQLO and H & M, grocery stores, and services shops like hardware stores, bargaining is not appropriate. For more market situations where there are vendors, bargaining is a standard part of the buying process.


Bargain your heart out at any Chinese market. Photo credit: Chris Wilkinson


No bargaining in malls like Shanghai’s popular Super Brands Mall. Photo credit: SimonQ

Get your bargain face on! Photo credit: Chris Bentley

Get your bargain face on! Photo credit: Chris Bentley

Among the shopping situations where bargaining is common, there are generally two types: those which are popular tourist destinations, and those which very rarely have tourists. The difference between the two is that vendors at popular tourist destinations typically speak some English, and they will probably stick tighter to their asking price because they know a tourist unable to bargain will inevitably come by soon, willing to pay a higher price.

While Waygo can help you in more of the first type of shopping situations, where conversations are not as necessary in order to make the transaction, Waygo is less helpful in the situations where conversation exchange is mandatory. Although most vendors speak some level of English at popular tourist destinations, a few well Chinese phrases can be a huge help in achieving a lower price.

Useful Bargaining Phrases

多少钱? (Duōshǎo qián): How much is it?

太贵了! (Tài guìle): Too expensive!

可以便宜一点吗? (Kĕyi piányì yì diăn ma): Can you make it cheaper?

我可以试试看吗? (Wǒ kěyǐ shìshìkàn ma): Can I try it on?

这个有别的颜色吗? (Zhègè yǒu biéde yánsè ma): Do you have this in another color?

有稍微大/小一点的号吗?(Yǒu shāowēi dà /xiǎo yīdiǎn de hào ma): Do you have a larger/smaller size?

算了,反正我也不需要它!  (Suàn le ,fǎnzhèng wǒ yě bú xūyào tā): Forget it! I don’t even need it.

Make friendly smalltalk with the vendor: ask the vendor their name, where they come from, the weather outside, etc. Heck, even attempt a joke! Remember a vendor haggles all day long, and your friendly face could result in a successful bargain!

Set your wallet up wisely so that not all your cash is sitting there when you open it up. After bargaining an item to a lower price, it feels silly to then open your wallet and reveal to the vendor you actually do have enough money to pay the higher price. Tuck larger bills in a hidden spot ahead of time.

Don’t name a price unless too quickly, just keep saying the vendor’s price is too expensive. If the vendor seems annoyed with you, don’t worry–it’s all a part of the act.

If you can’t get the price you are willing to pay, walk away. The vendor will probably call you back, willing to negotiate. If they don’t, then try somewhere else–chances are you can find the exact item at another stall.

Don’t think for a second that the labels displayed are genuine. Even though the price is high, it doesn’t mean the labels are actually real. Keep bargaining lower!

Remember your number hand gestures, as they’ll come in handy:

For prices, you’ll see these two symbols used across China, ¥ and 元, both meaning yuan. Colloquially, you’ll here the term 块 (kuài) used. Examples:

chinese shopping signs

元 is used in this price.

chinese grocery store

¥ is used at this grocery store.

In conversation:
A: “How much is that shirt?” 件衬衫是多少?

B: “It’s 10 kuai.” 10块


Happy shopping!