(yes, Oct. 1 was two weeks ago, but I just realized that I wrote this and never posted it, so since we haven't posted anything in awhile, here you go)
I'd made up my mind: “I need a guitar.”
So, a few days ago, I explored the two little music shops in WeiNan. Unfortunately, the prices were a bit on the high end: 550-750 RMB for a halfway decent guitar ($80-$110).
So when we made plans to go into Xi'an for some shopping on Oct. 1 (needed some cereal, BBQ sauce and DVDs), a guitar was at the top of my list.
After fighting the crowds downtown (it is one of China's biggest shopping holidays), I sauntered into the guitar shop and started inspecting the large group of guitars. Epiphones, Fenders, Washburns...all sorts of good brands, but undoubtedly out of my price range.
“Do you play guitar?” a young man asked me in English.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I want to buy one that isn't too expensive.”
Ok, he said. He pointed me to a Epiphone Talent, made in China. Hadn't heard of this semi-Gibson offshoot before, but it was worth a look. “This one is 450 RMB,” he said.
“Not bad,” I thought to myself, picking it up. It sounded good, but no better than the 400 RMB guitar I'd owned in Tonghua.
“Or, this brand,” he said, picking up another, labeled AAA. “In China 'A' means very good. This is the best of the cheaper guitars.”
Sure enough, it played better than the others.
“300” he said. “It includes a soft bag, strings, a strap and picks.”
“Nice," I thought to myself.
After trying a couple more expensive models that sounded no better, and learning that the man tutored several foreigners on guitar, I made another offer.
“How about 250?”
“Oh, you shouldn't ever offer someone a price of 250,” he replied, with a smile.
Wes chimed in, “It means that you're saying the seller is stupid. It's an insult.”
I'd completely forgotten. I backtracked. “I'm sorry. 260.”
He laughed. “How about 280. That's a very good deal.”
I tried 270, but wasn't going to haggle too much over another $1.50. “OK. I'll buy it.”