Silk Street video stirs debate on Beijing’s famous knock-off market

Internet users are critical of vendors selling overpriced fake goods and aggressively targeting foreigners after American films his shopping trip

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2018, 10:15am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2018, 8:47pm

A video posted on YouTube showing an American bargaining with saleswomen at Beijing’s Silk Street has prompted a fresh round of debate on the famous knock-off market in the Chinese capital.

The man, who claimed to be new to the city and posted the video under the username Collin Abroadcast, filmed his experience of shopping at the market in central Beijing last weekend. It has been viewed more than 1.7 million times in less than a week.

A clip from the video featuring an aggressive English-speaking Chinese saleswoman was also widely shared on Chinese social media and news portals.

The market – which is often on foreign tourists’ list of places to visit in Beijing, along with the Great Wall and the Forbidden City – is notorious for selling fake versions of popular branded goods.

In the video, which runs for over 20 minutes, the man buys a Moncler branded down jacket for 400 yuan (US$63) after bargaining the price down from 4,500 yuan (US$710).

The genuine jacket usually costs more than US$1,200.

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But the highlight of the video comes near the end, when an especially pushy vendor tries to sell the man a pair of Jordan branded trainers in loud, fluent English.

She starts at 950 yuan before finally agreeing to sell him the shoes for 250 yuan, saying she was only offering him the low price because he was “very handsome”.

Many internet users were critical of the vendors in the video for selling overpriced fake goods, and for targeting foreigners and using aggressive sales tactics.

“I often went to this market when I was a kid. Everything is fake in there, at least everyone in Beijing knows that,” one commenter wrote on YouTube, adding that he used to live near the market until he moved to the US.

“If you are not a Chinese and happened to be there, find a Chinese friend to go with you … There are hidden ‘rules’ in there – if you don’t know you will regret all the stuff you’ve bought in there. They sell things at least three times higher to foreigners than locals,” he said.

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Another wrote: “The world’s best businesspeople ... price quoted to foreigners is usually double that of where they start with Chinese, there is an unspoken law that they know everyone will bargain and most people always know the final price before they begin.”

But others were on the vendors’ side.

“These people are just making a living, just like you make money from taking a sneaky video. Can’t say who is more advanced,” one comment read.

Silk Street opened in 1978 and was known for selling silk products and other Chinese items until cheap copies of foreign brands started flooding the market in the late 1990s, bringing both local and foreign shoppers. It now offers a wide range of goods, from clothing to handicrafts and jewellery.

While China has stressed it is taking measures to protect intellectual property and carried out a series of crackdowns on counterfeit goods in recent years, the problem is still rife in small shops and even big markets.