Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bad Bargaining Skills

In four weeks my 6 year reign as a Peace Corps Volunteer will end.

Life has been busy.

I just got back from a nostalgic trip to Lanzhou for a weekend Project Design and Management Workshop.  I visited a partially deserted- due to the cold and rainy weather- snack street and ate my way up and down the shoddy stalls, trying morsels of BBQ innards and chunks of lamb and fish, washing it all down with boiled milk chuck full of dried fruit and grains.  I was reminded of how it felt being an Asian American sitting beside Caucasian friends attracting the attention of middle aged men, drunk on foul smelling rice wine, trying my best to ignore them, but having all of their attention directed to me because I am the "Chinese one" who is assumed to speak the language and translate their drunk slurs.  Chengdu has been a much easier place for me being Asian American.

Monday, I attended "Identity Matters: A Diversity Training for PC China Staff."

Then the rest of the week instead of catching up with the responsibilities of lesson plans, exam prep, COS paperwork, and packing, I entertained a visitor.  We found a hot pot buffet for $7 and I learned that even though I have been in China for 4 years I still think like an American.

My visitor wanted to buy some black, baggy, cool pants like the ones that I had recently bought.  I had bargained from 300 RMB down to 150 RMB, but thought that I had given in too easily.  After buying the pants, I felt the price should have gone for 80-100 RMB and was ashamed of my terrible bargaining skills.  My friend on the other hand is much much better at knocking down prices.  I assumed that it would be safer for her to go into the store alone because once the store owners recognized me, they would be like, "Yeah.  That is the Chinese American we ripped off and we can do the same to her friend."  I waited down the street.

My friend walked out empty-handed, "They wouldn't budge.  They wanted 160 RMB and kept saying that I had American dollars."

As we walked away disappointed, the store owner caught my eye and called us back into the store, "Oh our American friend.  We sold her some pants a couple months ago.  We will give you a good price."  They went from 160 RMB down to 120 RMB right away.  Then as my friend tried the pants on again, we made small talk and I reminded them that we were Volunteers.  They said, "Oh that is so good.  Okay okay, 100 RMB."

Even after being in China for 4 years, I totally misread the whole situation and assumed that because I had gotten ripped off the first time, my friend would also get taken advantage of, easy targets if the store owner remembered how bad I was at bargaining.  Instead, the thing that was most important, was the guanxi, the relationship we had formed the first time I visited their shop.

No comments: