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My Chinese price negotiation course

After spending three weeks in Beijing and Shanghai, I came to my third city, Hangzhou. Hangzhou is described as a “Paradise on Earth” and an emerging tech hub. It is also home to the e-commerce giant Alibaba. Sounds like a must-visit place for me!

The past weeks gave me a good opportunity to test my price negotiation skills with local B2C salespersons. It was no surprise that a few of them were true professionals. During the first day or two, I was also too soft and provided too easy money for them. However, I got my Chinese price negotiation course as a salesperson, not as a buyer. It was given by an older lady, who is making a part of her living by buying metro cards from travelers at Beijingnan Railway Station.

At Beijingnan I planned to get a refund from my metro cards, as there were still 80 yuan (US$ 12) of metro credits left. Unfortunately, to get a refund I was on a wrong side of this massive building. While thinking what to do, this older lady approached me. She offered to help me by buying my metro cards. Even I was not interested in walking to the other side of the station (which covers 3,444,000 square feet), I kept my cool – I had a feeling that there was an opportunity to experience something unforgettable.

After greeting me, the lady went straight to business. She told me that the refund booth was far away and I do not want to miss my train. After that, she offered me 30 yuan for the cards. I smiled and said, “No, thank you”. She raised her offer to 35 yuan and I refused again. Then she said, “Fine, no deal” and walked away. However, it did not take long before she came back with 40, 45 and 50 yuan offers. Her strategy seemed to be to tire me out and tactics to shake me by reminding that I might miss my train. Again, I refused all her offers and she walked away. After a jiffy, we had our third round. When I also refused her 55 and 60 yuan offers she pretended to get insulted and said:

“No deal – go and walk to the other side to get your refund and miss your train”.

Then she marched away and I thought that was it. I assumed that there was not enough margin for her to continue. For my surprise, after a she came back and made her 8th and 9th offer – 65 and 70 yuan. At 70 yuan sold her the cards. She had really earned her paycheck and I got much more than I expected.

My learning from my Chinese price negotiation course

My learning from this unforgettable experience is:

“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”

Just like the legendary line in the movie “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” goes: “Assumption is the mother of all…“. Yes, my yet limited experience in Chinese culture played a role in my false assumption (that she would not return again). It also reminded me brutally that when I get out of my comfort zone, my ability to observe objectively decreases and I start to rely too much on familiar patterns/models, which rarely work in an unknown territory. This is a challenge to be solved and I believe Dr. Alan Watkins has a solution for it:

By the way, here are my earlier learnings from this China adventure:

Thanks for reading!

PS. Feel free to share the joy. Thanks!

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