Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Getting cheated or not

The other day me and some friends were talking about how we used to get cheated (in terms of prices) when we first came to China. A French guy (who now speaks perfect Chinese) told us that when he went to Beijing the first time he bought a beautiful tea pot that had been reduced from 400 to 100 kuais. Back in Suzhou, he had some friends over and used his new pot when he made them tea. A girl complemented him for the tea pot and asked him what he had paid for it. When he said 100 the girls started laughing and said he was good at making jokes, seeing that she had seen the same tea pot on sale in Suzhou for 25 kuai. He didn’t have to give any further comments.

I’ve been cheated too, many times. In the beginning I found the haggling process a bit uncomfortable, I didn’t know what price to ask for, and seeing that many sales people start off with an outrageously high price, I always went for the 50% off price, which is still way too high. Anyways, now I have become a bit better and if I want to buy something I don’t even ask what the price is, I simply say how much I am willing to pay, and then it goes from there.

However, when the price is already quite low (eg when it comes to buying fruits) it is still quite easy to get cheated. Like some months ago, when I was buying apples from our local fruit man. I wanted five apples and he asked me for 20 kuai. Sure, I thought, picking up my wallet, when I suddenly heard a Chinese couple, who had been watching me, say (to the man, in Chinese)

-Wow, now we understand how you make your money! Cheating stupid foreigners!

I don’t know if it was the word ‘stupid’ or ‘foreigner’ (the used the word ‘lao wai’ –which I hate!) that pissed me off, but anyways, I ended up pulling back my twenty, putting down my bag of apples and giving the man an angry snort before I said something lame like:

-I don’t want your apples anymore! Or any fruit! (yes, pure drama queen) and walked off.

I never went back to the same fruit man. I had been buying my fruits there for the last 6 months, so by the time I stopped going he must have already made a fortune of my purchases.

Anyways, now I’m not that conscious. I try to buy my fruit at the same time as Chinese people are in the shop, buying the same fruit. That way I know I can get the same price. It’s funny though, every time you enter one of those fruit stands. The surrounding Chinese people really follow every move you make. They want to see what you are buying, and, what price you are getting. Yesterday I bought some pineapple (on a stick) on my way back from uni and a minor crowd was gathered when they heard me order two sticks (in Chinese). When the man charged me 2 kuais (1 kuai per stick), however, everyone lost interest and seemed a tad disappointed. Everyone except for me, that is. I knew I had, for once, gotten the right price.


Anonymous said...

Is that cheating, or is that just trying to get the best price?

Anonymous said...

Happens to everyone who isn't a local and local as in local to the city / area. Just make sure you check a few stores and compare prices before you buy anything in China. You have to haggle for even fruits / veggies / meat. It's engrained into the Chinese culture. If a merchant can sell for 1 cent higher, he would, even if it was his own mother.

Jonna Wibelius said...

I know.. sometimes I don't mind the haggling but there are days when u just don't feel like having a long discussion just because you want to buy a banana.. Those are the days I head to supermarkets!

Anonymous said...

hehe. except at the supermarket you are sure you will be ripped off. I guess knowing you are ripped off makes it feel better...? haha don't know...

Just so you know, I personally hate haggling too, but I know some people love it.

The other solution for me would be: eat out EVERY meal. cheap and yummy restaurant meals

Kenth Fagerlund said...

Ville bara säga att det är en riktigt bra blogg. Forsätt gärna så länge du kan :) Ska flytta till HK om ett tag så jag är intresserad av den kinesiska kulturen (Även om den är lite olik från HK)

Har bott i UK i 2 år nu.. Och är det en sak som jag saknar så är det klassisk flottig Calzone.. samma med dig? haha

Ha det bra

Lullun said...

Att pruta på priserna, nej det saknar jag inte i min vardag. Under en tidsbegränsad backpack går det ju, men att i sin vanliga vardag behöva ta diskusionen varje gång man bara vill ha ett äpple; jobbigt! Men du tycks ju ha blivit ganska bra på det. :-)

Jonna Wibelius said...

Kenth -kul att du gillar bloggen, för jag har inga planer på att sluta på ett bra tag! :) Saknar nog falafel mer än calzone. Mmmm.. falafel. En billigt 15 kronors falafel med blandad sås från Möllan i Malmö :) Lär nog bli några sådana i sommar!

Lullun -Nej, jag är ännu ingen prutmästare men d går bättre o bättre. Så himla annorlunda svensk kultur!? Om man skulle våga be om nersatt pris i SV skulle man nog åka på en smocka o bli portad för livet! haha!

Anonymous said...


You know..."Laowai" isn't exactly meant to be offensive. It's basically the shorter, more casual way of saying "foreigner".

They CAN say "wai guo ren" for "foreigner" (literally "foreign country person) but it's longer so people usually just say "laowai".

I don't think the vendor was trying to insult you. she was just trying to earn a buck while referring to you without using ur name (since she probably doesn't know your name)