The Black Market

When people think of the black market, they usually think of back alley drug deals led by tall, muscular tattooed men; however, in China, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Huge shopping centers filled with individual venders, mostly middle-aged women under 5’5, occupy Beijing.

One of China’s biggest issues is counterfeited products, also known as “fake goods.” Name brand products are a very popular commodity all over the world, but China is one of the only places where you can get the latest trendy Louis Vuitton backpack for 1/20th of the price. Who’s buying these products? Foreigners from all over the world. How’s the quality? Indistinguishable from the real thing. Where can you buy them? Everywhere, but two very famous places are Hong Qiao Market and Silk Market in Beijing. You might be thinking, “hmm good quality…cheap price…readily available…what’s the catch?” Well, if you aren’t careful you can be easily fooled.

Last weekend, my friend, Sarah, and I, two third year Chinese students, ventured off to Hong Qiao Market. With around 400 RMB (roughly $60) in our pockets, we began to look around. At first glance, you see a hallway filled with nice looking, “mom-type” Chinese women; however, once you get close enough, they become ferocious. I was physically pulled (yes, they grabbed my arms) into their small stores while they screamed, “GIRL, HEY GIRL YOU WANT TO BUY BAG? HEY GIRL YOU WANT NEW GUCCI? HEY GIRL GIRL GIRL LOOK AT ME YOU WANT ADIDAS?!” First I was petrified, but after ten minutes, I was screaming right back at them in Mandarin. When they figured out I spoke their language, they were much less aggressive, and showed me back entrances to their better quality goods. After choosing several bags, I would bargain with them for 20 minutes at least, cutting down their initial price from around 500 RMB to 50 RMB. After several hours, those 400 RMB were well gone, but instead, I had 2 Gucci handbags, 4 Adidas sneakers, 1 Louis Vuitton phone case, 2 basketball jerseys, and 1 soccer jersey. Not bad right? Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I looked over at a 50 year old Russian woman speaking English with the Chinese shop owner. The Chinese woman sold her 1 bad quality Gucci purse for 4000 RMB. THAT’S $600! After that, Sarah and I quickly left the market filled with new “luxury” items.

While we managed to get good deals, we left the market completely exhausted. American malls are less work, but so much less fun!