Hong Kong is a shopping heaven. Before starting your shopping, you must have lots of questions, such as what should be paid attention? Is there fake items? Is there shops cheating? We at Next Stop Hong Kong give you some advices and suggestions.
1) Know your product and compare prices
This is especially true when it comes to technical gadgets and electronic products like computers, digital cameras, cell phones and accessories. Due to cost pressures and different market demands, manufacturers often offer the same electronic products with different features and/or accessories in different regions of the world although the product name might be the same. I try to give you an example: In Hong Kong the HDMI port might be missing or the computer model does not have the HSDPA function, etc. Manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Lenovo offer in different markets the same product but with different components.
In order not to regret your purchase at last, you should make sure to check the exact specification of the product you want in your home country. When you finished doing your research you should know the product features as well as your average home market price. By doing this you have the advantage that you get a reliable and honest source. Then compare and double-check the features first in the big department stores in Hong Kong to get a good sense of market prices, because you can’t start bargaining without knowing the local market price. Right? Then you are set and ready for making your decision based on these facts and start bargaining and shopping.
2) Ensure the compatibility and double-check the product (especially an electronic product)
Especially, if you are from a country with a different voltage than Hong Kong (Hong Kong operates on 220/240V). Most European countries can use the Hong Kong products, but also make sure that the plug fits your needs or that you get an additional adapter so you can use it in your home country.
Most trustworthy shops and stores will unpack the product with you and do a test run or first installation of the Operating System if you buy a notebook, cell phone or digital camera. Pay attention that the sales persons put everything back after the successful test run. Although, not very common this “unpacking” of items is sometimes used as a “switch and bait” trick and there have been cases in the past where customers ended up with an inferior good when unpacking his “new” product at home. So take especially care and double-check your product yourself again after the sales person put in the box again. No matter product you purchase (CDs, DVDs, China or glassware, etc.), it is always good to double check after the payment to see if the product is in good condition, scratched or in worse case broken. In case the product is not in good condition you can immediately exchange or refund.
3) Pay attention to the warranty
Hong Kong warranty is usually for just a year and it is a local warranty, meaning if your product breaks down and you are back in your home country you have no way of getting this fixed. Some items will provide the international warranty or you can pay extra money to extend the local warranty to international warranty. So please make clear whether international warranty card is available. If something is wrong with your product, you have a good chance to get this handled and fixed in your home country. In addition, it also a way to distinguish so-called “parallel or grey imports” (products brought into Hong Kong, but not from the official importer). These products are often much cheaper than the official imported one, but lack the warranty. Click the link to know more about the differences between “Licensed Imports” and “Parallel Imports” items and what to pay attentions to purchase the “Parallel Imports”.
4.) Choose your shop carefully
Like in any business, city or country there are reputable people and shops and less reputable ones. In the past, some smaller shops have been using several tactics to make fast money and scam tourists (e.g. bait and switch, selling inferior or fake products, etc.). In order to restore confidence to foreign visitors and shoppers, the Hong Kong Tourism Board established the “Quality Control Scheme” (see picture). Shops with this label are reliable, trustworthy and honest in pricing. Prices and information are displayed in a clear manner and merchants take customers serious and provide and ensure an excellent service. And in case of any dispute you have the chance to get your money back. On the flipside these shops usually don’t offer real bargains, but you can be sure they are reputable. Next time before you walk into a shop, why not pay attention whether they have such label sticking on the door or the wall in the obvious place of the shop.
5.) Shop around and bargaining
Unfortunately, many of Hong Kong’s sales persons don’t take their time to explain the products to you. The famous saying “time is money” is especially true in Hong Kong and often the negotiating style of a sales person becomes aggressive in order to close the deal as soon as possible. But as a customer you have a very strong position due to the sheer market competition and the pressure to sell. Take this advantage and leave the shop if you don’t feel comfortable, be it with the sales person, the negotiation style or just because the price is just not right. Move on to the next shop and try your luck there.
Basically, the prices in Hong Kong are transparent, especially in the large chain stores: electronic stores such as Broadway, Fortress, Suning etc., cosmetics stores such as Sasa and Bonjour; other chain stores such as Watsons and Manning’s. These stores have very clear price tags. If you plan to purchase something, why not check prices in some more stores.
For electronic products, in these large chain stores you often don’t have the luck to negotiate the prices down because the prices are fixed. But if you negotiate, sales persons are willing to give some additional accessories. For example, if you purchase a digital camera, you might get additional batteries, SD cards, tripod, card reader, etc. for free which is somehow a price reduction as well. For cell phone, sometimes you can get extra screen protector, battery or cell phone case.
For cosmetics, Sasa and Bonjour are the two biggest competitors. Usually for the popular items, the price will not have too much difference. But they sometimes will have different promotions and then you will have chances to get good bargain.
The prices in small shops or markets in Hong Kong are sometimes more a suggestion than fixed. Especially, on markets like the “Ladies Market”, “Stanley Market” or the shopping streets in Mongkok are known for bargaining. As a basic rule you take 30%-50% off the offered price and start bargaining. You can read our article to know more about how to bargain on different street markets.
6.) Be ware of fake items
As a shopping heaven, it is inevitable to have some unscrupulous traders selling fake products. It is more obvious on those street markets, such as fake handbags, fake watches. When you are walking on the Tsim Sha Siu streets, you may have chance to encounter many sales on the street to approach you and ask whether you would like to buy “Copy Watch”.
If you feel like you are cheated by the shops and staffs, you could call the police to protect your right. The phone numbers please refer to our article : Hong Kong Emergency Number and Other Useful Phone Numbers”. If you have trouble on one of the markets, try to approach one of the uniformed police officers. They usually do a very good job to resolve issues.
Some additional advice: Try to avoid shops that don’t clearly advertise the price on an item or product. This is usually a sign that different prices are charged for different people. Also, stay away from shops that have displays like “tax-free” shopping etc. Generally, there is no sales tax in Hong Kong (ok … there are some small exceptions like cigarettes etc.). These stores are usually located along the Nathan Road in TST or in some other high frequency places for tourists. In addition, try to avoid shops that have big Neon advertising of famous (electronic) brands (such as Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc). The stores are relatively small, but have numerous sales people (6-8, some times even more). Their English and communication skills as well as their professional sales tactics and strategies are excellent. Don’t be fooled and think that you will get a bargain there or end up with the product you intentionally wanted to buy. These people are real sales experts and can judge exactly where you come from and how much they can charge you – so be aware of hook-and-bait and other tactics. Usually, the ratio of sales area and overstaffed sales personals is a very good indicator to avoid these kinds of businesses.
Other Shopping Options and Tips