Dogged discount finder aims to be the bargain hunter's best friend
Zhao Minguang , 29, ditched his internet marketing job to start up Shanghai's first bespoke bargaining service to help clients buy products at cut-rate prices. He tells Irene Wang how he came up with the idea and what the secret is to successful bargaini
How did you come up with the idea of bargaining for commission on behalf of clients?
When I worked for an internet company, I earned around 3,000 yuan a month, and I was thinking how I could arrange my weekend to earn extra money. I often went with my friends to buy computers and clothes, and I found that I had an ability to bargain. I guess my family has that inherent quality. One of my great uncles was good at bargaining for pigs in the village, and he knew the price he could sell the pigs for later. My father is good at getting the price down on all kinds of goods. He can even get clothes half-price. I started putting advertisements on the internet in April, offering my services for a commission of 20 per cent of the reduction. I helped my clients buy furniture and PlayStation Portable games, but it was just part-time then. From October, I started working with a website that deals in price databases. The database business is well established and may provide the foundation for my business plans.
How is business so far?
It's not long since I embarked on the business as a full-time job. The operation is just starting and is not very satisfactory. The orders are for various goods, such as televisions, cars, furniture and clothes. But I don't accept all the orders as the profit margins on some goods such as TVs are very small. I now mainly focus on establishing long-term relations with suppliers so I can have whatever I want at a reduced price close to their cost price.
I mainly focus on four sectors - cars, real estate, furniture and laptops. The price of each item is high so I can earn a higher commission. For some products such as cosmetics, brand-name clothing and jewellery, it is almost impossible to bargain.
How do you usually go about making a deal?
When clients come to us, they first tell me the best price they can get on their own and then I see if I can get the same product cheaper. Take furniture, for example. The profit margin can be 20 to 30 per cent, and as long as the sellers make a profit, they will be willing to make a deal. There are two keys to success in bargaining. First, you must show your strong interest in the products and your determination to purchase. And second, that you point out the price is the only thing you are concerned about. And also try appealing to the seller's supervisor. Ask them to ask for a further discount from their supervisors.
Who are your clients?
I only deal with clients in Shanghai because I would lose control of negotiations between clients and vendors if I operated elsewhere. I target high-income company owners and white-collar workers. They don't have the time or energy to negotiate prices. Once they hear about this service, they will realise the benefits for them. I take a percentage of only the reductions I can generate.
Do you think the chaos of the mainland market will make your business successful?
Chinese people love bargaining. This is the reality. Vendors prefer selling more products at lower margins. There are some products I can't turn into a business but maybe I can establish a channel between suppliers and buyers and create a new marketing model. I am optimistic about the Shanghai market. I offer a service to rich people and make money from it. It is like I am standing on the shoulders of giants.
What is your biggest difficulty and what are your hopes for your career?
The difficulty is that not many people know about the business yet. They don't know there is a way to help them save money, energy and trouble. When people are involved in a legal dispute, they think of hiring a lawyer. I hope when people want to buy expensive products, they will think of me.