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Bargaining in Korean Markets! 1

Bargaining in Korean Markets!

It has been a few weeks since my last post and I apologise for my recent absence. I have been busy trying to work on my photography and social media accounts. Along with that, I have had exams to deal with. However, now all of that is over and I have a large build-up of ideas and content to post! 

In these past few weeks, I have visited Namdaemun Camera Market an almost excessive amount of times. I wanted to purchase a new camera (but didn’t in the end) and found myself in a variety of different stores bargaining with the sellers. While I didn’t end up purchasing a new camera this time, I have bought three cameras from there (and Yongsan Electronics Market) in the past, and I have also bought a variety of gear there. I have been wanting to make this post for a while, but I wanted to make sure that I had enough personal experience before making it. I finally feel that I have experience now, and here is my post!


Saving Some Money!

I have aimed this post at shoppers interested in electronics and cameras primarily as that is where my experience lies. However, if you aren’t interested in either of these fields, I still believe you can find some value in this post. Most of these points stand for non-electronic purchases too!

You might be like me and have come from a country where bargaining doesn’t really exist. Everything in my country is bought at the labelled price, or not bought at all. To be frank, when I first came to Korea I was terrified of these markets. I had no experience at all with bargaining.

After an incident or two of paying more than I should have, I want to share my experiences with you, and what I have found to work when shopping for electronics, and in particular, cameras. 

To make this post easier to follow, I have sorted my key points in a way that is hopefully easier to understand and remember. Further, these are my experiences. They are by no means the ‘be all and end all’ of market shopping advice, and other people may experience something totally different to me. In saying that, I have included lots of general advice that everyone will find helpful.


Selling Old Gear?!

Never sell your old electronics gear at these markets. You will ALWAYS be selling at a loss. Remember, these people need to resell your gear at a profit, and that means that they need to purchase it from you at a lower price. Twice I have asked what my cameras would be worth to sell here, and twice I got disappointing results. Sony A7Rii – Offered 1,300,000 Won (approx. $1200 USD), Nikon D7500 (with 18-200 f/3.5-f/5.6) – Offered 1,200,000 won (approx. $1100 USD). These prices are incredibly low for what I was trying to sell and I managed to sell both of these cameras through other methods for 2,000,000 and 1,900,000 respectively. I gained around $550 gained per sale simply by selling the gear myself. By selling your gear yourself you are cutting out the middleman and gaining those profits.


Bartering Tips!

Never pay the initial offered price. If you are looking at a camera that is 2,000,000 Won initially, don’t settle for that price. That is the price they want you to pay, not the price you want to pay. However, you can’t just say ‘too expensive’ and walk out. My advice is to spend a long time talking to the seller, appear interested and try lots of different options (If you want a $2000 camera, try every different brand and option available). This means they are investing time in you, and it makes them more desperate to sell when you refuse to buy. Often I have managed to drop the price by 10% and get bonuses included for free. Things like batteries, bags, straps, can all be gained for free if you try hard enough. After you have been interested in the product for a while, simply say that the price is too much and walk out. More often than not, the person will try to stop you with something like ‘Deal deal! I will give you two spare batteries!’ Or ‘just 1,800,000 then!’. This is when you make your purchase. If they refuse to lower the price, go somewhere else.

Don’t be afraid to test all of your options. Don’t get stuck at one store, move around and see what your options are. I have heard on many blogs that all of these stores will offer around the same price, but that is not true at all. When I was trying to sell my camera I moved one store down and got offered $250 more for it. Always barter in a few different stores before purchasing, and no matter how friendly the seller, if you don’t want to purchase, don’t purchase. They want to be friendly so you will buy the product out of guilt. But remember, that’s all part of their business

Language Barriers?

Korean is not required at all for these markets. If you have your phone with you, it’s easy enough to communicate what you want. Just show an image of the camera, or the specs of the lens (16-35mm F/2.8 E mount) and you will be on your way to getting what you want. The price is also easy to debate, just open the calculator on your phone and write the amount you want. As long as you have a notepad/calculator app, you will have no problems at all.


Be Careful!

Always check the market price before purchasing. If you have your eyes on a certain camera model, always make sure to check Amazon/eBay/local sites and compare the price. Usually, I find the prices at these markets very competitive for new products, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The second-hand prices are also usually very good at these markets. I got my A7Rii second-hand (when it was still the latest model) for about 1,800,000 Won. And as I said above, I sold it for 1,900,000 six months later, and when it was outdated. That’s a good deal I would say! (This also reinforces what I mean about not selling gear here).

Be careful with the off-brand gear they will offer you. Usually, when they offer free gear they will try to give away stuff from brands you have never heard of. Bad quality tripods, batteries, memory cards, etc. When it comes to gear for something as expensive as a DSLR (or mirrorless) camera, you want something you can trust. You don’t want to put your $2000 camera on a tripod that will drop it, or use a battery that may damage it. I’m not saying that everything they offer is bad, but make sure to check it first. People often think that free stuff is great, and they will feel like the deal is much better if they get some free gear with their purchase. But this is their method, the gear is often not good quality at all.

Credit VS Cash (Important!)

Credit card purchases will have a 10% surcharge. Nearly every store will charge 10% more if you use a card, so usually cash is best. However, this doesn’t mean you need to carry a large amount of cash on you. When you have confirmed a price, simply ask the seller where an ATM is, and for which bank (if preferred) you need. More often than not, they will even walk you there.

Lots of these tips are things that I’m sure most people are already aware of. But if you are like me, and aren’t used to bartering then I hope this list can help you. Otherwise, I hope this list can help serve as a reminder for when you do visit Seoul’s amazing electronics markets.

Ask questions!

I will answer any questions or comments you have, so please do feel free to ask in the comments below. If you have something that you would like to ask me privately then you can contact me at [email protected]

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