China Shopping: Your Fake Market Guide

One of the best parts about life in China is how affordable it is

by SHFamily | Sun, October 02, 2016

There are a million and one perks to living, studying or traveling here in China. The list is a long one...but one of the best parts about life in China is how affordable it is. Tired of living the pauper post-grad life back home? Evade your student loan lenders, get yourself a plane ticket and start living like a king. 

If you're gonna live like royalty here in this great country, then you gotta look like royalty, too, right? Happily, China's got a cheap answer for that as well: it's booming, nation-wide knock-off industry. Don't have the money for a new pair of Nikes? No problem. Never gonna own a brand new Chanel handbag? No worries.


China's got a solution for you!

Besides China's knack for knocking off, prices here are far cheaper than what you can find back home.

Take that money you had been spending at thrift stores and head on down to any of China's plentiful, labyrinthine markets to find: yes, of course, fakes, but also fantastic Chinglish t-shirts, blindingly bright lycra, shoes too small for most Western feet, Obama graphics in a Chairman Mao cap, and just about anything else under the sun. 

So what are you wasting your money for on those fancy "real" stores and merchandise? Embrace the Chinese fashion way and get on down to some of Shanghai's best fake markets.



Han City (aka Fenshine Fashion or Taobao City) 

Han City is a mind-blowing maze of knock-off merchandise. If you know what you’re looking for, you can be in and out in 20 minutes. If you don't, you could wander for hours. Tourist buses drop off in the back entrance. Avoid this area at all costs. Han City is the fake market for tourists. You won’t find many Chinese locals here. If you go on a weekday, you’re less likely to be trampled by a stampede of foreigners.


The Stuff

You can find anything here. The building is four floors with hundreds of stalls. Each floor has a "specialty," but every floor is in reality the same. The only real way to find what you’re looking for is to search for it. Stalls specialize in art, shirts, electronics (headphones, speakers, software), jerseys, scarfs and sweaters, shoes, bags, kitschy Chinese propaganda stuff, jeans, etc.

Pro-tip: Naturally, the ground floor stalls get the most foot traffic, simply by virtue of the fact that people walk in, spot what they want right away, and make their purchase. But you'll save money if you exercise more patience.

Check out the top floors. Essentially every floor has the same stuff, yes, but far fewer customers have the time and energy to make their way to the top floors. There, you'll find more amenable stall owners, a bit more willing and eager to make a sale.



Best Buys

The best things to buy here are shoes and small-time electronics. Shoes start at RMB300-400 but can be bargained to RMB60-80. Jerseys start at RMB300 but can be bargained to RMB70. Speakers start at RMB200 but can be bargained down to RMB40.

Bags are a hot buy here: inexpensive knock-offs and really expensive knock-offs. Designer bags, the good ones, are located in the secret closets behind stalls. They start at RMB4,000 but try and push it to RMB600 or even lower. The same secret stalls also often sell fake designer watches and wallets (although made with real leather) for men. 

Generally it's best to skip the jewelry, though, as there are better markets for that. Avoid the art.



What Can I Get For RMB200?

Buy a pair of name brand knock-off shoes for RMB70. Add a pair of bluetooth speakers -- RMB50. Top it off with a sweet soccer jersey, just in time for the World Cup this summer, RMB60-80. Boom, RMB200. Substitute a handbag for any two of these.


What: Han City

Where: 580 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Chengdu Bei Lu 南京西路580号, 近成都北路





AP Plaza (aka AP Xinyang Market) 

Shanghai’s Asia-Pacific (AP) Plaza is 57,00 square meters of knock-off heaven. Sitting beneath Pudong, AP's more than 1,000 vendor stalls make up one of Shanghai's biggest and best knock-off markets.

The salespeople are only mildly aggressive, and AP features the Yada Pearl Market and a fabric and textile center. Yada has an incredible selection of pearls in all shapes, colors and sizes, along with jade and costume jewelry.


The Stuff

AP offers an array of apparel, as well as more boutique-like stalls. From polo shirts and dresses to outerwear, the assortment is never-ending. The quality is obviously lagging, but prices are low. So, indulge! You can easily build a new wardrobe on a budget if you have an eye for style.



Best Buys

Pick up a pair of knock-off sneakers in every color and print for RMB100 or less. There’s also a huge range of sunglasses, from classic aviators to trendy oval frames and vibrant colored shades. Prices vary depending on the quality of material with the sturdiest pairs starting at RMB150.


What can I get for RMB200?

Sports and fashion caps with NY or LA logos can be bargained down to RMB30. Sandals, flats and sneakers are plentiful in selection for RMB50-100. Add a genuine leather wallet or clutch for RMB70.


What: AP Plaza

Where: 2000 Shijie Da Dao, Inside Shanghai Science & Technology Museum, Line 2  地铁2号线上海科技馆站内, 世纪大道2000号, 近迎春路





Hongqiao New World Pearl Market

The Hongqiao New World Pearl market is furthest from the city center, the least crowded and least chaotic. The first floor features standard knock-off-ery: handbags, wallets, souvenirs, shoes. As you move up, there is an extensive jewelry market with pearls in every variation, size and color.


The Stuff

Hongqiao New World Pearl market includes a tapestry shop, with tons of carpets, cushions and home décor items that we haven’t seen at any of the other locations. There's also sports equipment, including tennis and badminton rackets, and balls. Many stalls are lined with fabrics in all colors and textures. There are great places to design a dress or get a custom fitted suit!

Tailored clothing: Fake markets are fun, but for high-quality, lasting apparel, you're better off finding a tailor for a custom-made piece. Hongqiao New World Pearl market is certainly not the only place to get clothes tailored to your specifications.

Shanghai (and for that matter, China) is full of talented and afforadable tailors. Find more info on how to get your favorite pieces copied or a new piece made brand new.



Best Buys

Pearls are the best purchase at this market. The second and third floors (now under renovation) house boutiques that sell pre-made pieces. You can also design your own jewelry from a wide selection of pearls and jade. There is a massive toy store, Wish Toy, equipped with every sticker, Lego and stuffed animal you could think of.

Pro-tip: The pearls you find here should be real, but for your reference, whenever you shop for pearls, check for fakes by scratching the pearl's surface with scissors. Most vendors will provide scissors in order to prove their pearls' authenticity. If powder scratches off, then you know the pearl's real -- if nothing scratches off, you know it's plastic.



What can I get for RMB200?

Silk and cashmere scarves begin at RMB75-150 and vary depending on the material, quality and dimensions. Grab a 22x14cm photo of Shanghai’s skyline or native people to adorn your walls for RMB50, though you can haggle and get three for RMB100. Luggage is also a great buy, with prices starting at RMB100 for carry-ons. 



Qipu Lu

Qipu Lu is seemingly the epicenter of the world’s supply of cheap Chinese clothes. Stall after stall, floor after floor, building after building. This is a place of pilgrimage for many Shanghai locals. Mountains of bags filled with clothes topple over themselves, providing napping nests for deliverymen.

Cheap electronic bullhorns blare muffled Chinese advertisements and blend in with the never-ending China-pop booming from cheap speakers near each storefront. Beware of pickpockets.



The Stuff

There is a greater selection of women’s clothing than men’s and all clothes run in Chinese sizes, which may pose some problems for the average foreigner. Try on clothes before buying them.


Best Buys

Graphic tees run between RMB20-50. Jeans cost between RMB30-100. Sneakers and trendy platform shoes range from RMB20-60. Jackets are the best value. Winter jackets run RMB50-100, while spring and rain jackets average about RMB100.


What can I get for RMB200?

A new wardrobe: Chinese, neon, no-name brand sneakers, RMB25; Chinese-style socks and underwear, RMB10; skinny jeans (remember, China sizes only), RMB40; graphic tee with hilarious English on the front, RMB30; spring-time leather jacket, RMB95.



What: Qipu Lu Clothing Market

Where: 168 Qipu Lu, near Henan Bei Lu 七浦路168号, 近河南北路


So there you have it, folks. The list above comprises Shanghai's main fake markets, and lets you know where to find them and what to buy there. But here comes the tough part: haggling.

Shopping Shanghai's fake markets are not for the faint of heart. The crowds are as relentless as the shop keeps. You'll find your Western sense of personal space repeatedly violated, your person touched and grabbed, and you'll perceive behavior so rude as to be downright offensive. Remember: it's just shopping, not a war zone.

But assuming you can survive that far, what you'll need more than anything to win the fake shopping game is bargaining skills

Bargaining, negotiating, intricate word-play -- call it what you want, the ancient practice of haggling is one of the great joys (or worst fears) of most of us who live in or visit Shanghai. But a few tips and some advanced preparation can mean the difference in finding that diamond in the rough without having to pay through the nose for it.

Mandarin skills are not even the crux of a successful bargain -- what takes you further than anything else is a bit of know-how with a bit of backbone. Read on for the do's and don'ts of how to bargain like a pro. 



How to Bargain in China

1. A little Chinese language goes a long way and may earn you some respect from the shop keep as well give you leverage when bargaining. Try these phrases:

这个多少钱? (Zhè gè duō shaŏ qián? How much is this?)

太贵了! (Tài guì le! This is too much!)

不要谢谢! (Bú yào, xiè xiè! I don’t want this but thanks anyway!)

可以便宜一点吗? (Kĕ yĭ pián yi yī diăn mā? Can you make this a little cheaper?)


2. Start low, almost too low. But make sure to have a price in mind first and wait as absolutely long as possible before even mentioning a number. Just saying a number starts the haggling. Once you decide to start though, shoot for 10 percent of the asking price. If a jersey starts at RMB300, start the counter-proposal at RMB30, be prepared for the onslaught of eye-rolling and the looks of exasperation, then slowly edge up.


Whatever you do, don't get too attached -- or at least appear too attached -- to an item before you start bargaining for it. The shop keep will be able to tell that you really want it, and you'll have a harder time not making concessions on the price.


If you feel like the price keeps going up, but your heart is set on an item, remind yourself that you're in a giant complex with hundreds of identical stalls hawking identical goods. When in doubt or starting to feel like you're losing or being cheated, simply walk away.


3. It’s all an act. Remember that and don’t get offended or frustrated because the shop keeps you’re haggling with are pros. Walking away to make it seem like you don’t want something is always a good tool to keep with you and they’ll put on a show too. Just remember, no matter how much they tell you you’re ripping them off, they won’t sell it to you if it’s not a good deal for them.



Fake Market Shopping & Bargaining Mobile App

Finally, to assist you in your fake market shopping and haggling, check out an app: Fake Market Shanghai. This brilliant app tells you what the average after-bargaining price for popular items should be, has some good tips and advice on buying techniques, and even has a user-generated feed of items recently purchased and at what price. The app’s biggest downside: it’s not available for iPhone (only for Android).

Happy haggling!

By Christina Biciola & Stephen Dutton, edited for the web by Chelsea Stone