Friday, June 11, 2010

Bargaining Culture

Bargaining is embedded in Chinese culture. Posted prices are not final except in the largest stores. To avoid being cheated, one must bargain. This is especially true if one is a foreigner, since they ask higher prices from us.

The bargaining culture influences the workplace. It is fairly common for Western teachers to be engaged at one price only to find their compensation reduced when they're paid. Such problems can be taken before a magistrate, but I'm told such matters are universally decided in the employer's favor. Disputes over pay are best resolved via bargaining.

To the Western mind, it appears dishonest not to have a fixed price for a product or service, but the Chinese don't view it this way. The sense of appropiateness is different here, more nuanced and situation specific.

Bottom line: If you're here any length of time, learn how to bargain!

Photographs: Chinese merchants selling their wares. In these venues, bargaining is expected.

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