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Discounts in Chinese: Don’t be fooled by the 折 sign

Don’t you love the sight of a great sale? How awesome is it to score a miaowtastic item 90% off? One of the members of our Google + Chinese language community pointed out something though: discounts in Chinese are confusing. It’s true. Discounts in Chinese don’t have a % sign on them AND they don’t work the same way they do in the West.
So how do you understand sale signs in China? Here’s what you need to know to never miss out on a great sale!

9折 = 90% off, right??! (NOT)

When I first lived in China, being the shopaholic that I am, the first time I saw this sort of sign:

A discount sign in China that is confusing for Chinese learners

I dropped everything and ran into the store. “90% off everything! How lucky!” I thought! Hah. Wrong!

Discounts in Chinese work the other way around

Turns out the Chinese present things the other way around! My lovely 90% off was actually only 10% off…

So here’s what you need to know to get your discount straight:

折 (zhé) does indicate the presence of discounts in Chinese. It comes from the verb “打折” (dǎzhé) which means to “give a discount”.

打折 is a very handy verb to know, by the way.  Next time you’re at a Chinese restaurant, try asking “ 打折吗?” as you’re about to pay. You may get a discount!

And here’s the right way to read a 折 discount:

A 4折 means the price I’ll pay = 0.4* the original price

If you see:

  • 1折 you’ll pay 10% of the original price
  • 2折 you’ll pay 20% of the original price
  • 6折 you’ll pay 60% of the original price
  • 9折 you’ll pay  90% of the original price.

So if you see this sign:

image

 then it means you’re getting 40% off!

And while signs like this one below may seem unappealing at first…and cause you to think ““Only 20% off? Pff I can do better.”

Ad sign in Chinese

sale sign from ju.taobao.com

In fact they’re offering awesome reductions , where you could be getting up to 80% off)! 

Counter intuitive or straightforward?

Yes, it’s kind of counter intuitive at first.

The way the Chinese see it, their way is a lot more straightforward : all you need to do is multiply the original price by the number you see!

What says you?

In any case, better get used to that system if you want to score great reductions in China!

And if you’re still feeling confused, stick to the 5折 price tags. These are safe 🙂

Here’s a recap:

DO: Remember a 1折 is a great deal. A 9折? Not so much.
DO: Get used to thinking “I’ll be paying xxx % of the price” and you’ll be fine!
DON'T: Keep thinking “I’ll be getting xxx% off” as this will confuse you.

One last extra tip:

DO: Keep an eye out for the little 起 character that likes to sneak in next to 折 and means “up to”. 2折起 means up to 20% offup to 80% off”.

And now, here’ s a little practice for you!

Three Chinese beauty products at discounted rates

Which beauty product has the best reduction? ^_^

Happy shopping!

Sarah and

The Nincha Team

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  • learner - April 11, 2016 reply

    Of course, the one with “2.9折”. The lower the number, the higher the discount!
    Thank you for this article, it explains really well. 🙂

    nincha - April 12, 2016 reply

    Well guessed! Looks like you’ve got the hang of Chinese discounts now! They can seem tricky at first but once you know the method, no more getting fooled! Thanks for reading 🙂

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