HOW TO BARGAIN AND HAGGLE
The art of bargaining or haggling is especially important if you're visiting one of the many local markets overseas. First time hagglers and bargain hunters might find bargaining a stressful experience, but after your first bargain you might realise that you're hooked to this ancient art.
Bargaining is like a play where you and the seller are two actors on a stage. And a successful bargain is one where both of you walk away thinking you got a good deal. Always be polite when haggling, and also remember that stall holders are doing business, being rude or offering insultingly low prices are not the way to go.
BEFORE BARGAIN HUNTING
Preparing for your market visit
Dress casually and don't wear any clothes or accessories that might make you look rich. Stall holders will quickly assess your dressing and nationality before giving you a price for an item. The richer you look, the higher the price. Even Levi's jeans could make you look rich.
Remember not to use a wallet where the money is easily visible. If stallholders see you've got lots of cash, they'll call out a higher price.
Make sure you have enough local currency before heading off to the markets. Even though many stall holders will offer to take foreign currency, they usually give poor exchange rates.
HOW TO BARGAIN
The stalls near the entrance to the market are generally the ones that get the most visibility, and also tend to charge more for the exact same item that you might find deeper in the market. With the high traffic because of their stall's position at the entrance, they can bide their time and wait for an unknowing shopper that will pay more.
Always look around at the shops near the entrance and get prices for items that you think you might be interested in. Also casually bargain to find out how low the stall holders are willing to go and remember the prices. When you go deeper into the market, use the lowest price as a guide for bargaining with the stall holders.
Stall holders, hagglers and actors
Stall holders and all good hagglers are fantastic actors as well. Many experienced sellers will make a discount of $2 seem like you're ripping them off. They'll take your money while grumbling and give you your purchase with a sour twist to their mouth. Then they'll suddenly brighten and have an idea that involves you bringing your friends to them if you come back to the market because they gave you a big discount, and you of course, being the nice person that you are, readily agree. You both part with smiles on your faces, maybe with you feeling a little guilty from your $2 discount. You might have gotten the short end of the stick, but that's the key to bargaining. Always make the other guy think he's got a good deal.
OMG I HAVE TO GET THAT!
Refrain from showing interest in anything in the stall even if you spot something that you can't live without. If you show too much interest in an item, the seller has the upper hand and the price will rise accordingly. When approaching the stall, casually peruse the items that are on display and ask for their prices.
Now you can move on to the item that you're dying to have. Look at the item as if you're unsure of whether you want it and ask for it's price. Always, always, always pretend that that's more than you thought it would cost. Peer at the item as if you're wondering what's so special about it, then give your counter offer as a statement as if you can't believe the price. For example, "this can't cost more than ... "
With an offer and a counter offer made, the true bargaining begins. Look for flaws and be quick to point them out. The seller will offer points to boost the price of the item, your job will be to find points to lower the price of the item. Even if the item is perfect, you can still come up with reasons to offer less. If you're getting a jacket and notice it's not wind proof, say that you're looking for a wind proof jacket and this doesn't quite fit what you want. Or that you're a home maker and you don't have that much money to spend.
Remember to smile and be polite in the heat of bargaining. And always keep your voice down, other than coming across rude, it's also important to not let other shoppers hear how much you're offering. If the stall holder thinks that you're spoiling their business, they'll not want to deal with you. Most of the bargaining will take place either with the price mentioned in a hushed voice or with the offer punched into a calculator.
If the price is still a lot higher than what you're willing to pay after haggling awhile and you're absolutely sure that you don't want the item, thank the seller and tell them it's too expensive, walk slowly away. If the stall holder is willing to come down to meet your last offer they'll stop you and conclude the bargain. If the seller doesn't stop you, coming back will give the stall holder the upper hand and the price will rise again.
Many people who are new to bargaining use this as a trick to get the seller to lower their price and they do it too early. Walking away isn't a trick, only do it if you're sure you won't pay more than your last offer for the item.
An alternative would be to ask them to give you something else to make up for the price difference of the seller's last offer.
Concluding your bargain
Always thank the stall holder whether you bought anything or not. If you bought something, mention a nice word about the stall holder to other potential customers on your way out.
Subscribe to our blog to stay up to date on Karen and Nick's adventures, travel articles and tips!