Haggling in Britain and China


During today’s lecture Jonathan brought up the topic of haggling. Normally tourists are not used to the idea of haggling over prices for products and are often embarrassed to attempt it. Venders in China put up their price up to 5 times over the normal price offered.

Britain uses a fixed price system in retail even though the prices are actually just the companies suggested price. We are happy to search around for offers or spend that little bit more for new possessions. A shop with an item on sale can retract any sale price and charge more for it because the sale price is just a low price for the customer to haggle with. It doesn’t normally happen like this. There are people who haggle for prices in independent retailers. Many independent stores are happy with this because it means you get a returning customer who is willing to pay more for the higher model then they would normally go for because they can get money off it.

All this reminded me of a day when I was working in a small camera shop in Portree on The Isle of Skye. A Chinese man came in looking to buy a camera. He saw a Sony Alpha 300 in the window and indicated that that was the one he wanted. I quickly became aware as he started passing me an iphone that he couldn’t speak English. On the phone was his friend in Hong Kong who spoke some English, he explained his friend in the shop wanted to buy the camera but wanted me to explain what it came with and the price to him so he could act as translator. After all the translation and a few more questions he started to haggle the price down. I told him that the camera was at a fixed price but he carried on to explain he didn’t have enough money on him to buy it at full price. The price was haggled up until he was £10 away from the set price. His friend explained he would have to digitally transfer the money to the man in the stores account.

The camera shop was owned buy a family friend who was a freelance photographer on the island. The shop was mainly just an extra source of income which before the domination of digital cameras had been very successful developing and printing film. The price mark up was very high on SLR cameras because we were the only place within 100miles that sold SLR’s. During tourist season we would sell out our stock of high range camera within a week so we could easily afford to put the price up.

After checking with my boss I sold the camera to the man for £10 under the asking price. He was very polite and shook my hand afterwards. I came to me that a British person trying to haggle would most likely come across rude and dismissive. I worked in Comet over the Christmas period and the people who tried to haggle were all like this. Perhaps its the culture of spending money at large retail businesses where you know everything is not marked at a realistic value that makes people behave like this.

Is a fixed price created by the retailers better then a haggling system?

Here’s a link I found about how to haggle in China for anybody thinking of traveling there.