How to Negotiate, Chinese Style
In late September of this year, I endured the 15-hour flight to Shanghai so that I could see my beautiful daughter Madeline, the 6’1” blonde college freshman (NYU Shanghai) who has herself become the subject of weekly marriage proposals and daily photo requests from the locals (stories for another time).
No doubt you have heard of the counterfeit trade that exists in China. Watches, clothing, electronics, cameras, and just about everything else you can think of, complete with brand names and labels, all for sale at bargain prices. Trust me, the untrained eye would not be able to differentiate fake from real. Even the packaging is dead to nuts perfect.
When Madi said she wanted to take me to see them, I envisioned a dark alley and nervous Chinese vendors looking left and right as I examined their wares in the suitcase that they held open. Instead, we boarded the train, road a few stops, and disembarked to find what looked like an endless kiosk mall in every direction and as far as the eye can see, brightly lit, guarded by security, and completely out in the open. It was all right there at the train stop!
It was here that I learned the finer points of Negotiation.
I knew going into that Saturday that there was plenty of room for improvement in my negotiating skills. My daughter read up on what to expect and told me the following, “They will give you a number. Give them a price for 1/10 of that. They will act as if you’ve taken food from their children but don’t back down. Keep saying no and walk away.”
It was that last part that made all the difference. The vendors were chatty, spoke passable English, and reacted exactly as Madeline predicted. Funny, they never actually spoke any prices. Instead, everything is done on a calculator that gets passed back and forth. Not quite sure what that practice is all about. But eventually, all transactions came to an impasse. They claimed that they were below cost and I told him that I didn’t really want or need the thing that I was looking at. The difference maker came when we turned and walked away.