There is a popular market in downtown Beijing where tourists go to try their bargaining skills against Beijing’s best salespeople. It is called the Silk Street Market. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside, there are 8 huge floors of total chaos.
There are 50+ shops on each floor. Each one is small, and specializes in something. I wish i had taken a picture of the inside. As you walk through the aisles, salespeople call to you and try to get you into their store. Once in, it’s very unlikely you’re going to leave without purchasing something. They are very persuasive.
My one female coworker at this office offered to take me to Silk Street one evening. Our goal – to get black market designer bags. She gave me the scoop – the Chinese people in this city are very good at reproducing things. These sellers are not selling actual Gucci, Coach or LV bags, but they are selling bags that look the same. Right down to the label reproduction. They are illegal, and the Chinese police bust them from time to time. For that reason, they cannot display the bags in their stores. However, they are very eager to get you interested in them as soon as you walk within earshot, “Hey Lady, you want Louis Vitton wallet? You like Gucci bag? I have here, come let me show you a picture.” Once hooked, they’ll show you a picture in a magazine or on an iPad. Then maybe they’ll bring your favorite selections over from their warehouse so you can try it out.
N and i went seeking the illicit bags. This was a Friday night. We found a store offering them immediately, but the salesgirl said she could not show us any magazines in the store because the police had busted them that day. Everyone was being more careful that day, she said. Instead, she took us downstairs 2 flights into the underground parking garage. She went to a trunk, popped it, brought out two tiny plastic stools and bade us sit. She gave us some magazines to flip through. Her brother would then go to the warehouse and bring back any bags we were interested in, and the trunk would be the storefront for the time being.
It seemed pretty sketch. Being in the parking garage basement was pretty bizarre, though i had been warned this sometimes happens. We were down there for about 45 minutes looking at bags and sending the brother running back and forth. I wanted to try and find a Louis Vitton bag, but couldn’t find one i liked. Oh well. I did find two Coach bags i liked. Let the haggling begin!
Our salesgirl was a tough cookie. I think you have to be, in her business. Her first price was $250 per bag, which is probably close to what the real thing would have cost. The bargaining was uncomfortable. N and i offered $40 to start and ending up settling on about $60 per bag. I believe N thinks i paid too much, but i’m pleased with the purchase. I paid the same amount for my pragmatic and plain utility purse that i have right now. These two are at least pretty.
I’m not sure which one i like best.