HONG KONG — I’d left my iPhone in a taxi, so I had to rely on my traveling companion Phil, a bond trader with JPMorgan, to serve as Christopher Columbus on our Southeast Asian odyssey. I lost nothing in putting the navigation in his hands — rather, in the hands of his iPhone.

Phil longed to see the jade market, and he can afford jade. As for me, I can afford slate or shell, nothing close to jade. After all, I ain’t working.

So we wove our way one morning through the narrow, crowded alleyways and bustling main streets here, his iPhone steering us to the jade market. Things got interesting there.

Unlike some Americans, I don’t mind the give-and-take of haggling. You give me a price for a good, and I’ll tell you how much I’m willing to pay you for it. Trust me here, the negotiations start at prices beyond reason, which you dismiss out of hand.

Yet inside the jade market, the women there were persistent, if not downright annoying. They were unwilling, so early in a business day, to let Phil and I leave without buying a bracelet or a necklace or earrings. Phil wanted “jade” earrings for his mother, and, if the price was right, he was willing to buy jewelry for his sisters.

The negotiations for the earrings started at $6,000 HKD, which translates into, oh, $767 in U.S. currency. Phil countered like a boxer. On the calculator the woman used, he wrote his counteroffer: $100 HKD.

The woman laughed. She countered: $4,000 HKD. Phil didn’t budge. She dropped to $2,500. Phil raised his offer: $500 HKD.

From there, their talks went cockeyed. Somewhere along the way, they started talking about not just earrings but bracelets too. The woman, joined by two women from stalls nearby, raised her offer back to four figures. After all, she seemed to be saying to Phil, he was getting several items, not just one.

Intrigued, Phil realized the items — and they were beautiful, real jade or fake — made sense to buy. He could give them as Christmas gifts, and nobody would see them as trinkets to discard.

He looked at what she put in front of him, and the five items dazzled, though not for what she wanted. Think about it: A fake Rolex might be worth buying for $20, but would you shell $1,500 for one?

His haggling got the two within striking distance of a bargain. Bottom line, he told her in the figure he typed into her pocket calculator: $1,200 HKD for six, not for the five they seemed initially to have settled on.

She came in at around $2,400. No deal, Phil said, using his head to signal no as his words did not translate easily across cultures. She told him no, and that’s when Phil turned to walk away.

Oh, but the woman wasn’t done — yet. She tugged and grabbed at Phil, lowering her price again. He still said no. He was unwilling to pay more than $1,200 HDK ($153). And as he headed out the market, she relented. “OK, OK,” she said, “1,200.”

The deal now struck, Phil and I headed elsewhere. But I decided as we stepped onto the street that the bracelets made nice gifts for my two nieces. So he and I quickly headed back inside. While I was trying to barter another woman, the first woman — the same one who seemed so reluctant to bend on price — just gave Phil another bracelet — a gift that cost him nothing.

Try to explain that gesture across two cultures. It made no sense, but neither does trying to squeeze a Rolex-like price out of a customer for the Timex on your shelf.