Asians and bargaining

I am sorry if this sounds discriminatory in any way, as this is definitely not my intention.

I work at a luxury car dealership and one of the well-known things here is that when an Asian walks in the door, it is not going to be an ‘easy sale’. Now, I have been to a lot of countries in Asia, etc. and know that Asians take things slow when it comes to business, and prefer a more personal touch, so my thread is not asking that. What I am asking is, is there any reason that the first words out of someone’s mouth from asian countries are “How much off?” and “What is your best price?”. Actually this goes against what I was usually taught about price and business is never discussed right away.

Example: A Chinese couple walks in and says they are interested in a Mercedes, but they are not sure which one. I show them Car A, which is $50,000. They ask “How much off?”. I explain we will get to that later. I show them Car B, which is $34,000. They ask “How much off this one?”. I show them a car for $100,000, same question.

This is not a one time thing here. And I worked somewhere before where it was the same thing. Actually, they have the ‘nice’ nickname of HMO (How Much Off).

Does anyone here know if this is some sort of custom? Is there a method behind the madness? Are they just looking for the car they get the best deal on (i.e. $2000 off of the $100,000 car is better than $500 off of the $34,000 car)? Is it because of lack of trust in sales? Is it because of a lack of understanding on how to negotiate?

Help me educate myself!

I can’t help you here but a Chinese friend of mine routinely describes Chinese as “Jews of the orient.” That might seem kind of screwed up on many levels at first, but if you think about it, cultural affinity for bargaining is a solidly cultural trait. To me excessive bargaining is beneath me - I am willing to pay a higher price for the sake of more withdrawn and polite interaction and shorter transaction process. For a lot of people excessive bargaining is respectable - it demonstrates power, control, and intelligence. Both viewpoints are equally valid, I think, and I am not familiar with the specific reasons cultures tend to lean one way or another.

I agree with groman. I think it is highly cultural. I won’t bargain much either, I’d rather just avoid conflict (because to me that is how I view it) and pay and get out of there. But I agree, the guy at my liquor store is a good friend, but he is chinese and always tries and gets my dad to lower the price on servicing his air conditioner and walk-in freezer. lol

I’m going to say that your mistake is your attitude. Dude, they’re your customers. They don’t have a problem negotiating, you have a problem negotiating. I don’t think it matters what you were taught about price and business and when it should be discussed.

I don’t know why the price always has to be a big freaking secret at the car dealer. If someone asks you how much it costs, just tell them how much. The trouble is you’re not trying to get the minimum price you would accept, you’re trying to get the maximum price they’re willing to pay. Between those two extremes you’re never going to find cooperation.

And don’t get me started on the whole "how much payment can you carry each month? Just tell me what it costs. I’ve gotta say that the insisting on knowing what the price is in the first place is the right way to do it.

I lived in China two years.

Haggling is just part of the culture. It’s ridiculous to pay the flat rate as marked, except in certain situations where haggling isn’t done(hard to explain).

It’s not being cheap…it’s just trying to not get screwed by the other guy.

I certainly agree with Bill Door on this, but while we’re on the subject, why is it that cheating the customer is considered acceptable business practice by car dealers? I can’t think of any other business where this disgusting practice is so openly done.

Actually, I do know the reason. Since our wonderful federal government has seen fit to prevent anyone from selling new cars other than certified new car dealerships, they have a monopoly and do not care about decent business ethics. It’s a shame.

No, yes it does. If you are disrespectful to the salesperson it’s not the salesperson’s attitude that has to be adjusted. There is one thing to negotiate in a civil tongue, but that doesn’t seem to be what the OP is describing. A salesperson is a human being, and social expectations in this country dictate that they should be treated as such. Part of that is being polite, feigning (or demonstrating) interest in their opinion, smalltalk on unrelated matters, and forming a basic interpersonal bond. Now I have dealt with people that resonate very well with what the OP describes and typically I used to direct them to our competitors (now I don’t do sales, so it’s not very relevant).

Who are you? Did I personally do something to insult you? What do you do for a living? Allow me to insult your profession also. APPARENTLY, you have never visited a high-end dealership, at least not here. I have never asked anyone what they want their payments do be. I ask them if they are leasing, financing, or paying cash, and how they want me to see them the numbers.

Really, to everyone else, I am not telling anyone how to negotiate. I am making an observation and I am asking people what they think. Is this how a thread is supposed to work, with insults towards the person posting the thread and asking a legitimate question?

As people have pointed out - partially it’s the expectation that bargaining is the standard practice in conducting business for consumer goods (particularly expensive goods) - most Western customers will expect to bargain at some point in a car purchase.

Could it also be a language issue? Some people with more limited language skills may be uncomfortable with “small talk” and chitchat - discussion of price may be a way of keeping an interaction going, but on a topic that doesn’t place unreasonable demands on comprehension or self-expression. Otherwise, it can feel kind of uncomfortable to be looking at a car, having a salesman hovering (of course from your perspective, waiting patiently to answer any questions), and not be able to engage in any conversation. (The inflections that we use to communicate emotion may be lacking as well, something that a non-native language speaker may not realize.)

When the guy says “How much off”, do you ever just give him a number to see how he reacts?

“How much off!?!”
“What? You crazy!”
“$1,000 old man, or get out of my shop!”
“Now you’re talking like you want to do business! $3,000!”

I don’t know… it sounds kind of fun. :smiley: Don’t knock it until you try it.

Actually, it is a standing joke here. Of course, with any customer, no matter what number you give them, it is just a starting point. This is why most salespeople will not give you a number on the lot. The biggest thing with Asians that I have learned is to ask them if this is the car they want to buy. You have to learn to calm them down, as is the case with a lot of different customers.

It is fun only if you let it be fun.

Amid the fireworks, Mahaloth gave a correct answer and nobody seemed to notice. Many Chinese enjoy hard bargaining, and that’s just part of life. Most Chinese I knew rather preferred to have a bargaining system rather than go in and pay a fixed price for something, which is pretty much the absolute reverse of how most Americans like their shopping.

I have no clue what the OP means “that Asians take things slow when it comes to business.” It just makes no sense to me how you arrived at this conclusion. For the business deals I’ve been involved in (with Chinese), there is a kind of system, and variations thereto, but sitting around with smalltalk at a market or place of business like a dealership really doesn’t seem to be part of it. Try going to a Chinese market sometime, that’ll make you replace the words “take things slow” with “are absolutely cutthroat.”

When I worked in retail I dreaded having to deal with oriental people, not because I have any disdain towards them as people, but because I could almost always count on them to be a big pain in the ass. For starters, it was very difficult to penetrate their thick accents. Almost invariably, they wanted to dicker and bargain with me on the price of computers, printers, etc. What they didn’t understand was that, as a mere lowly salesdrone employed by a major corporate retailer, I was in absolutely no position to lower the price for them. Of course they’d get upset with me and persist, thinking that if they keep at it long enough I’ll eventually back down. With many of these people it became an exercise in futility in trying to explain to them (hoping they could understand me) that WE! CANNOT! LOWER! THE! PRICE! What might be culturally accepted in their homeland doesn’t work here. As I didn’t even work on commission and only got a meager flat hourly wage, it didn’t matter to me whether or not I made a sale in the first place. People from the Middle East were just as difficult to deal with. To be fair, plenty of American folks tried pulling such tactics to get a better deal. “I can get it for $50 less at _____!” Well, fine, go there and buy it! Just quit wasting my time.

God, how I am so glad I don’t work in retail anymore.

Welcome FormerMarineGuy. In my experience, older generations seem to be more blunt. Which could carry over into negotiations.

Asians in Asia probably do, but that wouldn’t necessarily apply to asian-americans. I have very little in common culturally with anyone from the old country. I’m your typical loudmouthed american in a different shell.

If you can find an insult to your profession I’d like to see it in anything I wrote. I wrote that you didn’t want to take the minimum price you were willing to accept, you wanted the maximum price the customer was willing to pay. Is that wrong? Someone comes in willing to pay 80K for a car and you say, “No, 75K is enough”. Does the person that owns the dealership know this?

I never said there was anything unethical with this practice. You have the right to maximize the dealership’s profits and your commissions.

You seem to be annoyed because some customers want to engage in the same practices you do. They keep their target price a secret until they get you to commit to one.

You’re right about me not visiting a high end car dealership though. I consider a car to be a box for to convey me from point A to point B. Plus, my car spends about 150 days a year parked at the airport, and who needs a Mercedes for that? If I owned a Mercedes I’d have to start locking it and keeping it a garage and washing and waxing it and I honestly don’t need another hobby.

I’m a sales guy and lived in Asia for 20 years. It does drive me nuts when I ask someone a price and get back pure BS. I don’t want to dance around the price and listen to a bunch of features - I’m just not wired that way.

Be a salesman and pitch it. "Great eye, that’s the top of the range, and you’ll find it starting around $60k but fully loaded with the kitchen sink it can top $90k. That one over there is a sporty little number and you’ll find it ballpark in $40-60k.

Price is one of the big things for me and I know going in I don’t want to spend more than x. I’m not about to be talked into spending x + $10k. Now if your a great sales person, you might make me re-evaluate what I “need” and maybe that need can’t be met at $50k. But I’m gonna research and think on it. No matter how much blue sky you want to sell and close today - it’s only going to happen if you do it my way. My way is getting a reference price so I don’t waste *my * valuable time. If the sales person doesn’t turn me off in the first 2 minutes, I’ll usually also say something like “I’m a salesman, don’t want a hardsell, let’s start with some Q&A and the first one is how much?”

My advice: give them an amount to start with, not some flim-flam selling of the value proposition and lifestyle aspects. I hate that too. Cut to the damn chase.

When in Asia, I learned to bargain almost everywhere apart from supermarkets and convenience stores. It’s, as said, a normal part of the culture, and one learns to adapt. It’s like a little improv theatrical performance, or a locked-antlers battle, or combative dance, and it can be fun. Last year I was buying a digital camera from an electrical department store in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, and the conversation went thus - put yourself in the salesman’s shoes:

“Show me that one.” (I do a fake detailed examination. Frown) “How much?”

  • “HK$5,000.”
    “Hmmm, too expensive for this…” (implying that it’s a piece of shit) “Can you make some kind of discount for me?” (smile)
  • “OK, I can give you a good price. $4,500.”
    “This is better, but, you see, this isn’t the best camera on offer and I have a limited budget. But I want to do business with you not next door. You can maybe find some better discount?”
  • “$4,200.”
    “Still too much.” (diversionary tactic) “Do you do memory cards?”
  • “Yes, 128M, 256, 500, 1 gig, what you want?”
    “How much is a 1 gig?”
  • “$500.”
    “Hmmm, this is a very expensive store. I may have to go somewhere else.” (start walking off)
  • “OK I can give you a better deal.”
    “Throw in a memory card, then how much?”
  • “$4,500.”
    “$4,500??!?” (laugh derisively). $3,800 and you have a deal."
  • “No, cannot…”
    (Start walking off again)
  • “OK I give you best price! $4,200!”
    “Sorry, my budget is $3,900. My wife…”
  • “Your wife!” (derisive laugh, conspiritorial wink) “What are you, a man or not?”
    “Hey, you know what it’s like, she controls the budget!” (roll eyes with jocular cameraderie)
    “What’s your best price?”
  • “$4,100.”
    “Say $4,000 with the memory card and we’re done. Or I walk out.”
  • “OK. You’re killing me here, but it’s a deal because today is a slow day.”

Now, I know I got screwed somewhere along the line - no way would the sales guy give me something for nothing. But honor was satisfied, and we both retained face: I felt like I’d got a bargain, he acted like I’d spat on his mother. Good business.

So, if you want to keep your bottom line up with these customers, add $5K or $10K to the minimum selling price and tell it to them straight, then start dancing down with them. This isn’t necessarily dishonest: the initial inflated figure is what they’d expect. They think they’re scoring discounts and will be happy, and you can protect your minimum sales price.

Keep it good natured and jokey, but do a it of exaggerated play-acting too. And learn about face (the article says Chinese, but it’s widespread throughout east Asia).

It wasn’t too long ago that it was a normal part of the culture here in the US. Hell, it’s too bad you can’t go in and dicker at Best Buy. I remember buying some stereo equipment and camcorder in the 80s, and bargaining with the salesman was part of the normal process.

Even as recently as the early 90s I remember bargaining for a television. I’m not sure which version I prefer. I’d be interested if anyone knows what caused this shift in electronics sales techniques. Or maybe I just don’t know how to bargain anymore.

Here’s Russell Peter’s take on bargaining;

Indians vs Chinese

Sure you can, you just can’t try it with the lowly sales staff on the floor. You have to find the person who is allowed to do so. But you have to give them something (regular customer, multiple purchases) or be buying an open box, refurb, or discontinued item. Or show them a published price somewhere else.

You can always bargain if you are willing to work at it enough.