7 tips for shopping overseas

(First let me say that these rules; aren’t fair, not always nice, and hard to master. But they will help you when you’re shopping in another land. Here’s an example of an unfair rule, “go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I mean no trial? Can’t I at least see my lawyer? But just like the “go directly to jail” rule, follow these)

This post was inspired by my recent trip to Beijing. My wife and oldest daughter were at the hotel sleeping and so my youngest daughter and I headed out to face whatever the hard streets of Beijing could throw our way. We actually stumbled into (what I think was) a section of the famous Silk Market. From the moment we entered we were hounded by people selling clothes of all sorts of natures. It can get a little stressful if you’re not prepared. So here are some tips.


Don’t make eye contact with the seller- I told you these rules weren’t always nice. But in the end it’s best for you and the person trying to pawn stuff off on you, if you just don’t meet their gaze. When you do you become personally connected. And it’s harder to avoid a person who you’re looking at or have looked at. I prefer the oldest trick in the book of pretending to be completely engrossed in something in the exact opposite direction.

Don’t answer their questions- As innocent as the question may be. “Where are you from?” is a popular one, and for good reason, we love to talk about ourselves. But they don’t care where you’re from, you could make a place up and it wouldn’t make a difference. This method is often step two for a seller when you avoid eye contact. So pretend you don’t speak whatever language they’re using.

Walk, and walk fast- If the eye contact doesn’t happen, if the questions are ignored then sometimes people will stand in your way, block you from an exit, or grab your arm all in the name of a sale. And in the end I can’t blame them, they’re working for a family just like the rest of us, but you need to walk and walk fast if you aren’t shopping.


Know your price- This can’t be stressed enough. Period. Period. (see how I added another period to emphasize my point) Because this is what typically happens; “You want to buy this shirt?” sure you’ll say and you’ll add “how much?” to which they will reply “How much will you pay?” or some variation of this depending on their level of English. If you haven’t thought this through, it can be an awkward moment as you try to do mental math of how much A dollars is equal to B dollars. Be confident.

ALWAYS go lower then what you’re willing to pay- Bartering is a dance, if you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll fall down and everyone will point and laugh at you. So when they ask “How much?” you already knowing what you’re willing to pay, so counter with an offer less then what you’re willing to pay. It is the absolute worst feeling in the world to have your initial offer accepted .2 seconds after you offer it. Because what do you do then? Tell them the price you said and that they agreed to is too high? No. It might seem like common sense, but go less then what you are willing to pay.

Get all your stuff or souvenirs from the same person- This helps so much with your bargaining power. If a person sees a $50 sale walking out the door they will be much more willing to come your way, as compared to say… a $2 purchase.

Walk away, even if you want it… seriously- All too often we just settle when bargaining. If you really want to get the price you’re asking for, walk away. As you are leaving the door the seller will be much more willing to bend on his price.

I remember once when this really didn’t work out for me though. I was buying a dresser (or something like that) from a stall in Xian that sells used furniture. The lady wasn’t budging on the price so I started to walk away in an attempt to get her to follow me and lower the price. After about 30 feet my wife was walking towards me and I quickly mumbled this question to her “Is anybody following me?” to which she replied “No”.

I learned that day that sometimes even these rules don’t work. What works for you? (Add a comment at the bottom of this page)

Enjoy this day,

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