Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Hongqiao Pearl Market

There are shopping options everywhere. I suspect several China posts will concern shopping. This weekend I went to the Pearl Market. I was looking for shoes, but this place has it all, even pearls.

The first floor has a lot of toys and lower priced items. This is where to go for luggage, toys, electronics, a scope should you be in need of one, a USSR multi-tool which I have asked Santa for, cheap jewelry, and tailors. The kids made their Christmas requests while exploring.

The second floor is where to go for pearls in Shanghai.  You can also find jade jewelry. The pearl stores range in price and appearance. I am not sure what to look for in a good quality store. I stopped into one and chatted with the guy for a while. He was very nice and I walked out with
a cheap pair of pearl studs. One large and impressive store had pictures with Jimmy Carter and a letter from GW Bush. I admired the pieces in the cases, but suspect their prices were too high.

The third floor has a mix of stuff from antiques to shoe stores. As I was on a quest for shoes, I hit all of them. The set up is different in each store, but basically, you look by color and style and then see which ones are in your size. The stock is on display. There is nothing in the back. My feet are huge by Chinese standards and there were very few 39s or 40s to be found. Add the bunions, thanks kids, and the perfect shoe becomes harder to find.

One store had the perfect shoe. Sure my foot fit like Cinderella’s stepsister the first time, but I had patience. Taking off my shoe and elevating my foot, the swelling went down just enough to squeeze in. Now, for negotiations.

So worth the effort.
Usually, the seller will throw out a number. The buyer then judges the actual cost of the item and throws out a counter offer for about a two thirds of that. Gradually, the two parties work towards the middle, the actual cost. Sometimes if you don't look interested, they will start bargaining themselves and the price will drop significantly. Other times, like with my shoes, the starting price was significantly less than market. Still we went round for round. They tried to switch the shoes for another pair. They offered discounts for multiple purchases. They offered gas receipts for tax purposes. Anything to sweeten the deal.

I hate bargaining. If shopping in China takes this much effort and time, I cannot imagine what goes into negotiating a treaty. I have new respect for the Pol and Econ officers posted here. My negotiating got me a wicked awesome pair of too narrow shoes with a market price of 200 GBP for 490 RMB (currency converter located on the sidebar). Don't tell Spencer.

I do suggest having an agenda walking in, as shop keepers will try to sell you anything as you walk by. Shouts of “watches,” “jackets,” “purses” followed me down the cramped halls. There were a lot of shouts for purses as they couldn’t believe that I really use my favorite, but grungy and torn touring bag. In order to keep track of stores I always ask for a business card. Then I write good directions, some physical identifier, and the items of interest. Currently, I have a stack that will be for Christmas shopping in a month. This is an excellent system, but I do not have a business card holder. Guess that goes on the agenda for next time.

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