The most popular phrase in the Luohu shopping market is “Hello looking handbag watch?” Sometimes this is shortened to “Hello looking?” or mixed up with “You buy glasses?”
Where the electronics market is filled with booths of people who sit disinterestedly chatting with friends online, the Luohu shopping market is the exact opposite; thousands of small stores and booths with every one of them standing outside their stall trying to convince you to come inside and peruse their wares.
Directly across the border from Hong Kong, the market is situated in such a way as to make it easy for Hong Kong residents and visitors to hop into the mainland for a few hours of shopping for jewelry, fake designer clothing and shoes, kitschy ‘authentic’ Chinese art, cheap electronics and watches, and custom tailored clothes. Five floors of madness. And everyone speaks the international language of shopping English. Just enough of the right words so that they can get you to buy things.
Outside the market are people approaching visitors, asking to help them navigate directly to their stores so they can get you to buy their goods and following closely as long as there is a chance. Inside it’s hardly any better. Every few feet is a new stall, and another person asking in the same way “Hello looking handbag watch?” We stopped at a few places, even made a few purchases. We also mastered our negotiating tactics, and if you thought there were plenty of negotiating tricks that a single person can make, having a group of people opens up a whole new world of plays. Since everything in the market was market up immensely to extract the maximum from visitors, and many of the materials are not as advertised (there’s no way that’s actually cashmere, and why is the tag ripped off of this article?), there’s a significant amount of room for negotiation. In one case we brought the cost of something from something like 860 down to 130. That was a fun one and involved at least three different plays.
The play that gets the most response is leaving. They hate seeing a sale walk out and will always call you back to continue negotiations. Two plays we discovered as a group include getting a discount by purchasing more than one item (handy if you were already planning to buy two things but don’t reveal that till the end), and having your friend hold your money so you can show a nearly empty wallet and say that you’ll come back tomorrow with the money (you both know you won’t), or that you’d have to borrow from your friend and you would rather not. They’ll realize they can’t get any more out of you.
The amazement of the place didn’t start until the top floor, though, when we got to where all the tailors and raw fabrics lived. The stalls were filled with gorgeous gowns and suits, and tailors following, offering to make a custom suit within days for cheap. The prices were amazing, the clothes incredible, and the number and diversity of fabrics unheard of. There were stalls for buttons and stalls for furs and stalls for stretchy fabrics and wools and cottons and synthetics and drapes and everything.
I’m definitely going back.