Prices are always negotiable at markets, and you can expect discounts in small shops, too, especially for electronics or if you buy several things at once. We usually suggest starting to bargain at half the advertised price: you might end up with anything from 10% to 50% off. Be firm and decisive: walking away from a stall can often produce a radical price drop. Don't let anyone guilt-trip you; no Hong Kong salesperson will sell you anything that doesn't cut them a profit.
Haute Hong Kong
Local and regional talent is showcased at Hong Kong Fashion Week, held at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre every January and July. For more information on fashion week or featured designers such as Guo Pei, Dorian Ho, and Frankie Xie, visit www.hktdc.com. To read profiles of Hong Kong designers, visit www.hkfda.org, the website of the Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association.
Prices vary hugely. For big items, do research before the trip and then comparison shop in different districts. Ask clerks to record prices on store business cards: it helps you to keep track and ensures that you get the quoted rate if you return to buy. Keep expectations realistic. A US$5 (about HK$40) pure silk shirt probably isn't pure silk. That said, it may still be a good shirt at a great price.
Finding the Perfect Fit
There are no two ways about it: most Americans stand a few inches taller (and wider) than the average Hong Konger. Finding bigger sizes, particularly at cheap shops, can be frustrating. Tailoring—thank goodness it's affordable here—may be the only way to go.
Authentic jade can be tricky for the casual shopper to spot, but a couple of simple tricks can help discern genuine from ersatz. When lifted, jade should be heavier than a similarly sized stone. Hold it to the light, and it should look fibrous, not homogenous. A more full-proof technique relies on the shopkeeper’s cooperation. Scratch the surface of the stone in question with a knife, scissors, or whatever is on hand, and it shouldn’t leave a mark.
Hong Kongers look forward to sales like other people look forward to summer vacation. From late December through February and July through September, prices plummet. It may be retail heaven, but it isn't therapy—shoppers all but wrestle bargains from each other at hot sales like Lane Crawford's or Joyce's. Many shops frown on trying things on during sales. Stand your ground, though, and you'll probably swing a fitting room.
Tricks of the Trade
Be wary of absurd discounts, designed purely to get you in the door. Product switches are also common—after you've paid, they pack a cheaper model. Avoid electronics shops in Tsim Sha Tsui, which have earned fearsome reputations thanks to their relentless bait-and-switch tactics. These neon-lit shops are fun to wander through, but do yourself a favor and stick to accountable chain brands for pricey buys. Check purchases carefully, ensuring that clothes are the size you wanted, jewelry is what you picked, and electronics come with the accessories you paid for. Always get an itemized receipt. Without one, forget about getting refunds.
Hong Kong Tourism Board. Shops displaying the Hong Kong Tourism Board's "quality tourism service" sticker (an easily recognizable red junk) are good bets. You can complain about prices or service at one of several HKTB offices strewn throughout the city or submit an inquiry online. Find centers at the Peak, at the Star Ferry concourse in Kowloon, and even at the airport. Peak Piazza, Central, Hong Kong, n/a Hong Kong. 2508–1234; www.discoverhongkong.com.
Hong Kong Consumer Council. For complaints about all shops not approved by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, call the Hong Kong Consumer Council. Room 1410, 14th fl., Kodak House II, 39 Healthy St. East, North Point, Hong Kong, n/a Hong Kong. 2929–2222; www.consumer.org.hk. Closed weekends.
Watch Out for Fakes
The Hong Kong government has seriously cracked down on designer fakes. Depending on how strict the police are being, you may not find the choice of knockoffs you were hoping for. Bear in mind that designer fakes are illegal, and you could get into trouble if you get caught with them going through customs.
Finding Your Way
With space at a premium, shops and small businesses are tucked into all sorts of places—up the back staircase of a scruffy building, down an alleyway, or on an office tower's 13th floor.