Whether by accident or not…
It is no secret that China is where you go to buy a faux Louis Vuitton purse at a fraction of the price. Once you find the mothership of it all (not that you should), you MUST keep these five things in mind.
#1 Do: Trust Well-Dressed Strangers
When you are walking around the outside of an enormous, deserted and locked building looking lost and thinking “This is the fake market?!”, trust the well-dressed stranger who materialises out of thin air to “show you the way.” As she walks and walks and walks and eventually begins to take you underground, try not to freak out too much.
#2 Don’t: Let the Well-Dressed Stranger Lead You Around by the Nose
Although you will feel indebted to this mysterious angel who dropped from the heavens above to lead you to the Motherland of Knockoff Louis, Cartier and Hermes, you do not have to stay with her for the rest of your shopping experience. She will try to lead you to the stores she wants you to shop at (most likely, she gets a cut from the sales at those stores). She may even have a posse that will work hard at corralling you if it appears that you are about to go astray.
Telling her and her posse that you want to eat or that you have to use the restroom will not deter them. They will wait for you. Seriously. They will be persistent…so you have to be “persistent-er.” Just walk away. Break free and run if you must!
#3 Do: Understand that Your Name is Now “LADY!”
“This way, lady!” “Follow me, lady!” “This real leather, lady!” “What price, lady?!” “You want Coach purse, lady?!” Much like “Countess of Wessex” or “Princess of Wales,” you are now “LADY! of the Underground Market.”
#4 Don’t: Be Afraid to Say NO
These people are professionals. They don’t mind being pushy as hell to get you to do what they want, and what they want you to do is BUY! So when you find something you want and you tell your angel-captor that you are all set to make a purchase, learn to say “No, I have what I want” when she insists that you buy a second item.
She will almost body block you from the cashier if you don’t pick out a second item before going to make your purchase. She will take you over to the rack of clutches and pick up every single one and tell you why each is great. She will burn a clutch with a lighter to show you that it is real leather. She will open every pocket of the clutch to show you how much it can hold. She will point out the fine stitching. She will show you all the colours and ask what colour you like.
She will be relentless…so you have to be “relentless-er.” Just say NO.
#5 Do: Haggle Your Little Heart Out
Once you find that beloved Louis Vuitton you have been eyeballing for a year back home, it’s time to dodge your angel-captor and get to the cashier…who will also “encourage” you to pick out a second item before your purchase. Again, just say NO (or “No, thank you” if it makes you feel better).
There are a million shops in the underground market, most selling similar things. Since they are aware of this, they know too that you can walk to the next shop and get the same thing for a lower price (unless you are still under the spell of your captor and are totally unaware of the piles of Louis Vuitton march in every other store in the underground market).
You must know that you wield the power as the buyer and it’s all about haggling. Start low. Start ridiculously low. Have no shame in your cheap foreigner game. Have no shame when your captor and the cashier starts speaking in Chinese to each other, sounding frustrated and exasperated with you. It is all part of their game and remember, they are professionals. You are the lamb, they are the wolves. You need to become a wolf, but well, wolf-ier.