Many people like to buy a few souvenirs, but as you might have noticed, they are often very expensive if you buy them directly where the "attraction" is. Explore the area around the main attraction and buy your souvenirs further away from the attraction. You might get it cheaper there.
Just take small things like postcards. If you enter chinatown, you might be able to buy 5 for $1 at the first shop, but get 10 for $1 at the end of the street. This one dollar isn't the problem, but you should take your time and look around when you wanna take bigger or more valueable things home.
unless u r too rich and dont know where to spend ur money, dont buy souvenirs like fridge magnets in fisherman's wharf! chinatown has the exact same stuff and even more variety at prices one-tenth of those at pier 39!
Unique Suggestions: just go to pier 39 and absorb the festive atmosphere, see the sealions and window shop. nothing worth buying there.
Stay away from no-name or discount stores selling various electronics products such as cameras, radios, phones, etc. These stores are usually much more expensive and sells lower quality products with no warranties.
Unique Suggestions: Don't go in at all, or you will be pressured into buying, and if you refuse, some of them can be nasty.
Fun Alternatives: Go to legitimate electronics stores such as Good Guys, Circuit City, Best Buy, or even Target. A good camera store is Adolph Gasser, but you can also check out Wolf Camera or Ritz Camera.
Souvenirs, anyone? Why not buy some 'tastes' of the City instead of that plastic back-scratcher.
Here are some items produced locally, from the greater Bay Area. You can buy them in any Safeway or large super market.
Spirits: Mumm's Champagne, Domaine Chandon Champagne, Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon.
Beers: Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada, Gordon Biersch, Anderson Valley.
Miscellaneous: Ghirardelli Chocolate, Scharffen Berger Chocolate (pictured here), Jelly Belly Jelly Beans (made famous by former US President Ronald Reagan), Gallo Salami, Sonoma Jack Cheese, Boudin Sourdough Bread, Parisian Sourdough Bread.
Joseph Schimdt Chocolate & Confections.
Recchiuti Confections, available at The Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, on the Embarcadero at the foot of Green Street in San Francisco, each Saturday, rain or shine, from 8am to 1:30pm, and available at any Real Food Market (there's one on Fillmore in the Marina District).
Fun Alternatives: See also my SF Shopping section for a great list of Bay Area Chocolate.
The shops in Grant Avenue are more geared to tourists than in Chinatown's Stockton Street. Stockton Street has the butchers, vegetable stores, small grocery stores, and general stores that everyday people buy from.