Wednesday, April 23, 2008

houhai, and the art of bargaining

A few nights ago, Che, Pokey, Tracy and I made the trek out to Houhai:

Houhai (Simplified Chinese: 后海, English: Back Lake) is a lake in Beijing, part of the Shichahai lake area. In recent years it has become famous for nightlife because it is home to several popular restaurants, bars, and cafes.

It was a cold, rainy Sunday night, and Houhai is well-liked because of its outdoorsy feel -- bars and restaurants around a lake, rooftop terraces, etc -- so it was pretty empty. We ducked into the first not-too-sketchy bar we saw to get out of the rain, and it turned out to be a pretty cozy place with comfy sofas, a synchronized swimming competition playing on CCTV, and a lone guitarist lip synching to American songs.

A very eager waiter (服务员 fuwuyuan) handed us a drinks menu and must've seen the faces we made at the relatively high price of 35 kuai/shot, because we hadn't looked at the menu for ten seconds before he gave us a sideways glance and said, "I can reduce each shot by 5 kuai, if you want..."

Our combined immediate reaction was a, "....what? we're allowed to barter for set drink prices at bars??" But he'd handed us the option, so we happily accepted and ran with it. The ensuing conversation went something like this:

Us: 5 kuai off? That's nothing. How about this, we want to buy in bulk. Give us 8 shots for 150 kuai.
Waiter: 150! That's impossible, way too low. 240.
Us (to each other, while shaking our heads and making faces): There are so many bars around here, we can always go somewhere else, nothing's keeping us here. Nothing special about this place.
Waiter: No other bars will give you discounts! Believe me. No one else! I'm being so generous already [you ungrateful foreigners]. I won't do 150 kuai, but I can pour a little bit more in each cup.
Us: A little bit more? Hmm...all right, how about this. 200 kuai for 8 shots, with a little bit extra poured into each.
Waiter: 200 kuai? [goes over to consult with his fellow fuwuyuan] Okay...200 kuai.
Us: Deal, then! And how about you throw in a free plate of peanuts?

Sometimes it's pretty awesome, this bargaining thing.


Tracy said...

sounds like an Amy Tan novel

Silent Spy said...

haha you should try that trick back here and see if it works

Anuraag said...

hm, 25 kuai per shot? Still 太贵了! I think 10 kuai is the going discount price... 25 is what they charge at Propaganda/Vics/Mix!

Cedric Tsai said...

i thought in China they'll say xxx yuan, but in Beijing does people say xxx kuai?

Nelson said...

summer of '05 in houhai (i think it was 'shut up just drink'), they had their homemade absinthe for 8kuai/shot

kpirate said...

well-played =)