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10 Jun '13

Flight Attendant's Shopping Secrets for Bargaining in China

When my airline launched a new non-stop, flight from Seattle to Beijing three years ago, I jumped on the opportunity. Fast forward to today, I now have my own online jewelry business called Snake Twist with my daughter and many suppliers I can call friends, whom I regularly visit on my many trips over the Pacific.


Flight to Beijing with my daughter

First attempt at shopping in Beijing

On my first trip to a Beijing market, my intentions were clear. I needed a cheap watch. Nothing fancy, just a wristwatch. And, maybe, I thought to myself, I would look at some shoes I could wear to work. That's it. I swear.

An hour later I emerged from the market dazed and in a fog. I was holding two shirts, a jacket and just enough money to take the bus home. I still didn't have a watch. How could this happen? I didn't even really want the jacket—and I certainly didn't want to purchase it for 300 yuan ($48). I began to notice things about my new purchase that I hadn't seen before: bad stitching on the seams and a label that read wrong.

Before I came to Beijing, I had read about bargaining and knew that I should haggle over prices. I heard that sellers would inflate prices by 50 percent or more. I heard one should try walking away from a negotiation to get a good deal. My first attempts, however, were pathetic and went something like this:

Salesgirl: Hey! You would look great in that jacket. I'll give you a great price. Only 320 yuan ($51)!

Me: It's a really nice jacket. How about 250 yuan ($40)?

Salesgirl: ARE YOU CRAZY? This is the finest quality jacket in all of Beijing and you will never find anything as good anywhere else. Cheapest price: 300 yuan ($48).

Me: Ok.

I'm exaggerating, of course, but not by much. Rookie Mistake #1 was giving up too easily. I set myself up by admitting that I liked the jacket, and my counter offer was too high. After a few weeks of failure, I learned to tease out a lower price by acting disinterested and increasing my counter offer in smaller amounts. Another trick I learned was to add more items to my purchase during the negotiation. Smaller items can be used to sweeten the deal.

Shoe Shopping in the Beijing Silk Market

Second Attempt at Shopping in Beijing

My competitive streak emerged and I set out to be the best bargainer in Beijing. I learned all of the tricks and traps and within a few months I was scoring some sweet deals—which led me to Rookie Mistake #2:

Salesgirl: Hey! You would look great in that jacket. Only 320 yuan ($51)!

Me: ARE YOU CRAZY? I would only pay 50 yuan ($8) for that jacket. I saw three of those down the street for less. It's falling apart. The color makes me want to vomit. I wouldn't be caught dead in that jacket. I'm leaving.

Salesgirl: How about 275 yuan ($44)? It's a good price!

Me: If you throw in the shoes, hat and bag I'll give you 51 yuan.

Salesgirl: Please leave.

Lily in the Pearl Market, her jewelry is always fresh and trendy

When Bargaining Goes Too Far

Crew members hate to be mistaken for tourists because visitors are naive and pay too much. Getting a good deal is a badge of honor and means you have been here enough to know what locals pay. Sometimes, however, that pride can go too far. Bargaining is a sort of game and I've seen too many crew members get upset and angry during a negotiation, haggle over the smallest amounts and generally behave badly if they don't get what they want. You don't get a better deal by being rude. You don't do yourself any favors by being aggressive. Be polite and friendly and things may go your way. Don't swear you only have 20 yuan ($3) in your pocket and then hand them a 100-yuan ($16) bill expecting change. Be honest. 

Nobody seems to notice me as I enter a store in the US, I have become spoiled by the flattery of Beijing shopkeepers. No one whips out a calculator to negotiate a two-for-one deal. In fact, they seemed slightly offended when I tell them their bags are knock-offs and that I shouldn't pay more than half price.

I have surprised myself by learning to enjoy shopping in Beijing, scoring good deals is a way to bond with my Chinese neighbors and friends.  I hope as Beijing develops it will preserve its little markets and culture of bargaining.  In these days of chain stores and mega retailers, shopping has become impersonal.   In Beijing I have developed relationships with favorite shopkeepers with many good memories and friendships.   Here's too Happy Haggling.

Best, Cindy Smith.


Cindy with Po (Pearl Market, Beijing China)

10 Mar '13

10 New Ways to Twist Your Snake Necklace

Tired of wearing your Snake Twist the same way? We've compiled some great new ways to twist your bendable necklace with how-to directions. We used various Snake Twist colors and sizes. 

1. Simple Double Loop Twist

Copper Snake Necklace
(Cindy is wearing a Copper Medium Snake Twist)

How to Twist: Place the necklace around your neck then loop it once so that it's crossed one time in the middle. Take the entire loop and fold it up over the long part of the necklace. Move the twisted section to the length and size of loops suited for your outfit or the top you are wearing.

2. One Big Infinity Loop

(Shanelle is wearing a Gold and Silver Thick Snake Twist)

How to twist: Start with the necklace laying long around your neck. Cross it once in the middle then fold up. Pull it down so there are two tight loops on top of one another. Then cross the untwisted part of the necklace (the loop on the bottom should be on the top). Lastly, twist both loops above the crossed point, making a third loop. Move the necklace around to suit the size you would like.

3. Art Deco With Crystal Ball


(Shanelle is wearing a Gold Crystal Ball Necklace)

How to Twist: This way of twisting is all about getting the Snake Twist to bend to the sides. Follow the same directions as the 'one big infinity loop' and then then spread apart the top loop to the right and left. It will look like five loops. Use your hands to place the necklace how you would like, making some loops smaller than the others. If you are wearing a crystal ball necklace, try placing the ball near the top so it doesn't way the necklace down. This necklace is worn similarly by Carol Thatcher in Iron Lady

4. Flower Twist, Three Big Loops

(Shanelle is wearing a Gun Metal Thick Snake Necklace)

How to Twist: This style is similar to the 'one big infinity loop' but can only be done with an 8mm Thick Snake Twist. Follow the directions for the infinity loop, then spread each loop out evenly. Customize where you want the loops to bend. 

5. Thick Twisted Bracelet

(Shanelle is wearing a Silver and Gold 8mm Thick Snake Twist)

How to Twist: Wrap the Snake Twist around your wrist like a rubber band, looping it until it cannot loop again. Take what's left over, or that is loose and twist it into its own loop. Bend the extra loop back towards your wrist.

6. Circle Floating Twist

(Cindy is wearing a Gun Metal Ball Necklace

How to twist: Start with the necklace laying long against your chest. Cross it over once and flip loop up towards your neck. Make the loop bigger and then twist the loop twice. Position the twists how you would like, floating towards your neck.

7. Down and Tight Twist

(Cindy is wearing a Rose Gold and Gun Metal Thick Snake Twist)

How to Twist: Follow the steps for the 'one big infinity loop' but cross the necklace one more time as follows: Cross the Snake Twist once and flip up towards your neck, cross and flip up again, cross again and spread out the loops. This will give a tighter more downward look. 


8. Crystal Ball Bracelet


(Shanelle is wearing an Antique Gold Ball Necklace)
How to Twist: This style will only work with a crystal ball necklace. Wrap the Snake Twist around your wrist like a rubber band, not worrying about wear the ball is. Then pull the ball out, so the rest of the Snake Twist is tight around your skin. Loop the ball one time and place where you would like on your wrist.
9. Greek Wrap Around a Ponytail 
(Shanelle is wearing a Silver Medium Snake Twist)
How to Twist: Start by putting your hair in a ponytail. Take a medium or skinny size Snake Twist (a thick will not work) and loop and cross one end of the snake necklace where the ponytail is tied. Start wrapping the ponytail by looping the Snake Twist (circle twists). Twist the loops as tight as possible until there is no Snake Twist left. Then pull it down to the end of the ponytail. Voila! 
10. Grecian Goddess Head-wrap

(Cindy is wearing a Silver Thick Snake Twist)
How to twist: Place the Snake Twist around your head, then pull it back so it's tight against your forehead. Twist is twice and place against the back of your head. Then pull the part at your forehead up to your hairline and behind your ears. This is a fabulous fun style to wear! I love it for spring and summer.
For questions please email Cindy or Shanelle at info@snaketwist.com or call us at 206-679-2615 / 206-853-5639. We love answering your questions! 
02 Mar '13

Ideas for organizing your necklaces, accessories and bedroom in a small space

Posted by Shanelle Smith in ikea, organizing your jewelry

I'm the kind of person that has a very clean apartment, until you open up the drawers and cabinets. I'm more of an out of sight... out of mind kind of a person.

This morning my boyfriend and I were talking about how we fit together even though we are both extroverts. I'm a type B creative extrovert and he is a type A extrovert (addicted to detail, organization and not allowing me to buy things). The only place I'm truly organized is my jewelry collection, but it didn't happen till I discovered a trick that brings decoration, jewelry and organization together into one artistic expression. 

Do you ever forget that you have a necklace or bracelet and wish you had remembered for a particular outfit you were putting together?

I used to do this all the time! And sometimes I would end up buying new pieces, not knowing what's in my collection because A. I don't have time to dig (and break pieces digging) and B. everything is in drawers. 

This all changed one day at IKEA. 

Last year when I moved apartments- my new place was in dire need of updating. While it has an amazing view of Seattle (aka rent costs are up 8% here), it has not been updated since the 70's.. uh maybe the 60's. I even had to ask for the dated brown paneling to be painted white.

70's kitchen cabinets and appliances

70's kitchen   

Stainless Steel & Granite vs. City View? City View with half cut tree-hedge wins! (City won't let me remove.. typical Seattle)

Ideas for Organizing for those who tend to be unorganized

Being the 'creative and on budget' girl that I am, I was trying to update the bathroom and kitchen with silver accessories from Ikea. After some Swedish meatballs, I plunged through a crowd of screaming children to the bathroom towel racks and it dawned on me! I can decorate my room "Mad Hatter" style with these towel racks and hang all my necklaces and it will be fabulous. BINGO! Like any good idea- it's worthless unless you put it to action. 

Towel Racks to Hang Necklaces

Note- I have a lot of jewelry because of my business (most of it is samples)

Ikea towel racks are cheap and easy to assemble. You just need a drill and the right size screws. I did this myself!  

Make sure you measure your necklaces and have a place for the short one's and the long one's. 

Mad Hatter Look- Making nothing that goes together, look like it should. 

It might be a good idea to color code your necklaces- but I have too many that are different lengths, so it would look strange. You can also use a longer Ikea rack to hang your scarves (switch out winter with spring/summer scarves). The black empty frames tie the wall together without taking away from the color / texture the necklaces add. 

Platters on your vanity are a great way to display your bracelets, watches, earrings, etc.

Use decorative trays and platters (all mine came from Goodwill or my mom's attic) to add 'sophisticated separation' to the top of a dresser or table. This will show your real interior decorator / designer friends that you are starting to know what you are doing.

DIY Bedroom Vanity

Make-it-yourself vanity: I bought this one craigslist for $50 from a tattoo parlor and found the gold mirror at Goodwill for like $20. The man in line was like you are leaving with the best stuff! I wanted to paint it silver and white, but I like the character too much! 

Putting a vanity in your bedroom creates world peace when you live in a small space and share a bathroom. It also makes you feel sophisticated.

The ONE Messy Drawer

Nothing ever gets used in this messy drawer.

Displaying Belts

Use a towel rack for your bathroom on the back of your bedroom door to hang your belts and your boyfriend's ties. Desperate for space calls for desperate 'creative' measures.

Perfumes and Colognes can be decoration! 

Display your perfume and cologne on a tray and add heighth with a plant or vase. You won't forget to spray perfume if it's right there when you wake up! And your bedroom will smell like spices.

Give your room some 'Je ne sais quoi'

Every room needs 'sets of three' that include: texture, pop of color, height, width, pattern, life (plants/flowers) and neutral (white, black, gray, air, nothing). You can't have an even amount of anything (like pillows, lights) or all one thing because it makes the room feel off balance and it will give off bad energy which can effect your daily life.

Everything needs to flow. 

For more ideas or questions email me at info@snaketwist.com