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Always Ask the Price

Successful bargaining is both an art and a science. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting a deal, plus a key Cantonese phrase. You’ll flub the pronunciation, but you may get points for effort.


1. Always ask the price of the item, even if it’s displayed. You’ll know for sure whether the prices are flexible if the vendor immediately offers you a “discount.”

2. Ask the vendor to go lower, or make an opening bid of 75 to 85 percent of the asking price. Coming in at half or less will only get you ignored or scolded, and bargaining is a game of respect. He will repeat his offer or move toward the middle. Either way, you’re still in the game. If he immediately agrees, you overshot.

3. Bigger-ticket items like art and furniture have more potential for deeper discounts. Offering to buy more will increase your odds.

4. If you are buying craftwork and the vendor is the artisan, treat his wares with appreciation. Let him know you like the item but can live without it. Be fast; chaotic Chinatown shopping gives you time only for a couple of counteroffers.

5. In the event of a stalemate, flash the cash. Have small bills handy and take out exactly what you’re willing to pay.

6. Don’t be afraid to walk away, but hover in the vicinity. Pretend to browse nearby. If you’ve played your cards right, he’ll come after you with a final offer. Thank the seller and wish him a Happy New Year: “M’goy, san nin faai lok.”


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