The day came for the plan I hatched while sitting in class with my eyes glazed over to come to fruition. I got up early Monday morning and ran down the stairs with my purse and my large empty suitcase in hand. The three days worth of change of clothes I packed fit in the front pocket of my luggage and that’s what I wanted. This is not a spring break vacation. I’m going so I can shop for great quality products and bring back a good amount that I could sell to recoup the cost of this venture and maybe even make a little profit. Off I went to the airport, checked in, and after taking a connector flight to Chicago, started my 15 hour journey to the other side of the world. The anticipation was killing me. What am I going to buy? How much? Will I negotiate a good price? What is a good price? What am I doing on a flight to China by myself? Oh MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?!?! I had all 15 hours to think because there’s absolutely no way I could sleep crammed in economy class. Mercifully, the flight attendant came around with some red wine whatever that means (in Economy, we plain folk are not allowed the luxury of finding out the type of grape we’re drinking. 🙂 Your options are red or white.). I calmed my nerves and tried to think clearly.
Best case scenario: I go to the market, I negotiate a great price on some nice products, I bring them back and sell them for a profit. I have tried to prepare as much as possible for this by creating a list of what I want to purchase, determining the quantity and how much I could afford to pay for it without feeling like I was scammed. I was going to buy 300 scarves, 50 pieces of accessories, 50 bags and some other sample products I was going to test out. I had also gotten in touch with my old tour guide from my MBA global study program. She sounded enthusiastic about my idea over the phone so I was encouraged.
Worst case scenario: I still go to the market, I negotiate to no avail and will not be able to get a decent quantity. I spend more money than I wanted to and purchase the products to bring back with me. My contact would not be as helpful as I initially thought and I would be left to my own devices.
Either way I knew one thing; its too late to turn the plane back now so I might as well make sure I do my best to get things to turn out the way I wanted it to.
It all starts when you hit the ground
Finally, at around 1:30pm tuesday, our plane landed safely and I was able to make it through customs by 2:15. Small victories. I collected my luggage and headed outside the terminal where, a huge swarm of taxi drivers and neatly dressed ‘airport employees’ tried to persuade me to take their taxi. The negotiation starts here. First of all, if you accept the first price they give you, you already lost. They start off at an absurdly high amount and expect you to negotiate. The actual price is usually 30% of what they initially quote you. The taxi ride ends up being the equivalent of $30 or so if you negotiate it well enough. Second, maybe this should be first, unless you have ridiculously heavy luggage you can’t lift, you shouldn’t take the taxi. Shanghai has one of the most amazing and well maintained subway systems I’ve seen anywhere I’ve traveled so far including Europe. The whole city is connected and the options are endless. The regular subway could easily take you anywhere in the city but the best thing about starting at the airport is that you also have the option of taking the ‘Maglev’ a high speed train that lets you bypass quite a few stations on the regular train route and drops you off at a point where two or three other lines meet. The Maglev costs 50 Yuan, which is the equivalent of $7. You can then transfer to the regular lines and take them to wherever your final destination is for 4 Yuan or the equivalent of 75 cents. With my light luggage, this was essentially a no brainer. I walked straight past the cabbies who were negotiating their rates down to the train station. I was at the hotel in 45 minutes! So far so good. But the real work still lay ahead.