Dispatches from China: haggling, bartering and street vendors

By Hector Flores @chicanochino, NewsTaco

On a recent phone conversation with my primo hermano, I came to a startling realization. It all began when Manny asked me, “Where is the Chinatown in Guangzhou?” Upon hearing this, I immediately began to look on a map in a misguided attempt to locate the Chinatown area of the city. After several seconds, I suddenly thought, “there is no Chinatown in Guangzhou, the whole city is Chinatown!” Manny immediately began to laugh and we had our patented primo to primo moment where we promise not to mention this incident to anyone else. However, he never said anything about sharing this with the Newstaco.com!

For the sake of simplicity and to avoid an overly complex metaphor that would take a Ph.D. in Asian History and Neil DeGrasse Tyson two hours to explain, let’s keep my “China is Chinatown” metaphor at face value. For irate diatribes, email me at [email protected].

I have been to the Chinatown section of San Franciscomany times and have found that prices as flexible as bamboo. Press too much and the owner snaps, press too little and you won’t get a response. My point being is that haggling can be employed, especially at the street level. For us chicanos, haggling is something we learned to do when trying to stretch a dollar at a yard sale. This parallel, although flimsy and slightly tofuy, connects and endears us to our Chino hermanos.

Now, if haggling is de rigueur in China town then it is an Olympic sport on the mainland. You are expected to haggle. Think of Sunday trips to la pulga with your family and you’ll get the idea. I understand that there are people who are uncomfortable in asking for a discount or the process of haggling makes them uncomfortable, then my advice to them is to pay the price the vendor asks. Simple. I look at these individuals as subsidizing my cost for an item. If they pay the first, usually inflated price, then I will get the discounted price! It all evens out at the end, like karma but this is haggle karma.

Haggling is most prevalent when purchasing an item on the streets and not nearly as accepted in a store with posted prices. With that said many of the items available from a street vendor tend to be of lower quality and desirability and are aimed at the casual or impulse buyer.

Compitas y comadres reading this may think that I moved all the way to China to be codo (a cheapskate) or that it makes no sense to reduce the price of an item from 40 to 37 centavos chinos. To be honest, I AM cheap y que! Buying anything is only half of the enjoyment and haggling adds that extra dimension. In my humble Chicano opinion, learning to haggle is an essential life skill and the better you become at it, the more haggle karma you get! (Trust me, you’ll need it when you get married!)

Next up: Golden Week. 1.3 billion itineraries.

Hector Flores is a writer, producer and entrepreneur finding his way through the modern maze that is China. After reading Rudolfo Anaya’s travel memoir “A Chicano in China”, he was inspired to blog, tweet and post on his own adventures as a curious chicano in China. Mr. Flores blogs and posts at www.chicanochino.com, tweets @chicanochino and can be reached at [email protected]

[Photo by Hector Flores]

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

How a harsh criticism turned ‘Coco’ into Pixar’s most uniquely made movie yet

Victor Landa November 17, 2017

Director Lee Unkrich was hot off the box office success and Oscar win for 2010’s “Toy Story 3” when he delved into making a movie that focused on the Mexican […]

Trump Administration Targets and then Mocks Immigrant with Prosthetic Leg

Victor Landa November 15, 2017

A 20-year-old undocumented immigrant with prosthetic leg and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status has been detained by federal immigration agents and held without charges for over a month, treated inhumanely […]

More Latinas are becoming teachers and reshaping our nation’s classrooms

Victor Landa November 29, 2017

The growth of the Latino population in the United States will have a lasting cultural and intellectual impact beyond the arts, food, and celebrations. More and more, Latinas are becoming […]

As Numbers Grow, Recognizing Generations Of Latino Veterans

Victor Landa November 10, 2017

As the nation honors its veterans, government officials point to the growing numbers of Latinos in the military, while Hispanic scholars and historians remind us of the generations of Latino […]

U.S Hispanic Chamber Leader Who Has Had Turbulent Relationship With Trump May Be Ousted

Victor Landa November 22, 2017

The US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) is moving behind the scenes to oust its prominent president Javier Palomarez over allegations that he misused the organization’s money for his personal […]

How Indie Latinx Comic Book Authors Are Capturing the Latinx Experience

Victor Landa November 13, 2017

Back in 2010, comics creator Javier Hernandez was walking around San Francisco with his friend Ricardo Padilla when he had an idea: Why don’t they build a comics convention focusing […]

Half of Latino Immigrant Characters on TV Are Portrayed as Criminals, Study Finds

Victor Landa November 1, 2017

Define American, the immigration nonprofit founded by Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, has released its first-ever media reference guide for writers, directors, and producers concerning Latino immigrant characters. Immigrants and […]

Could Hispanic vote push Lupe Valdez into Texas Governor’s Office?

Victor Landa December 8, 2017

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is running as a Democratic candidate for Texas Governor after a year of speaking out on big state issues– particularly the controversial sanctuary cities ban. Experts says […]