What You Need to Know if You Go to the Fake Market in Shanghai (or Beijing)

Any person who has been to the tourist magnets of Beijing and Shanghai is familiar with the fake markets. There have been changes to the various markets over the years, but the most famous one that I know about are Xiushui Jie (aka Silk Street*) in Beijing and the market at the Science and Technology Museum metro stop in Shanghai. At these markets, you can buy anything from fake Ferragamo to fake Fendi, but you have to bargain in order to walk away with both a knockoff and you dignity. Of course, many students have no idea how to bargain in Shanghai!

photo of sunglasses
Get yourself some Bay Rans at one of the fake markets in Shanghai or Beijing

So how do you bargain in Chinese? To be honest, you don’t really need to know how to speak a word of Chinese in order to bargain at the fake markets. All vendors will have a calculator handy, and you can use that to go back and forth. Many vendors will also be able to speak a bit of English. I wouldn’t rely on their English though. It tends to be mostly memorized phrases and the pronunciation is often poor. If you are reading this post, I assume that you do actually want to be able to say a few words in Chinese on your own, so onwards!

A Task for Learning About Bargaining

I developed a task for my adult students that teaches both what to expect when trying to bargain in China. If students want to visit the fake markets in China and haggle on their own, they need both a knowledge of numbers in Chinese and also an idea of how much they need to bargain.

To make this task, I surveyed about a dozen people who had recently gone to the fake market in Shanghai. I asked them what they bought, what the original asking price was, and how much they ended up paying. If I was really a super star teacher, I would have found some pictures online to illustrate each item. But I want to do things like eat a home cooked meal and read books, so I did not bother to prepare any visuals.

What is the Typical Asking Price?

We spent about 45 minutes on this task in class. First I introduced each item that one of my survey respondents bought. They were all things like handbags, sunglasses, and watches. Then, I asked the students how much they thought the original asking price was. Sometimes, a student would guess correctly, or close enough. Other times, I had to tell them what the original asking price was. Then I asked them what they thought the person eventually ended up paying. Again, sometimes they guessed correctly and sometimes I had to tell them.

How Much “Should” You Pay?

From this task, the students got a sense of how much they should expect to pay at the fake market vs. the asking price. They also got a lot of input on the numbers in Chinese. If I had more time, I would also include an explicit discussion of the discounts that each person got. In Chinese, we don’t say “70% off” we say something more like “30% of the original price.”

photo of police confiscating fake purses
Be careful where you take that Channel bag or Prado. I hear that in some countries the police will confiscate counterfeit goods.

More on Chinese learning tasks for adult students:

Chinese Currency

Chinese Food

Preparing for a trip to China? Check out our China Boot Camp classes here.

* I have Chinese friends who remember when Silk Street was an actual street, but now it is more like a shopping mall.

What have YOU bought at the fake markets? Did you bargain in Shanghai or Beijing)? Share in the comments!

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