In many countries around the world you’ll find that some markets and shops rarely have set prices. It’s normal to bargain over the price, and that means the onus is on you to get a good deal and not be ripped off, especially if you’re traveling alone.
Here are a few essential bargaining techniques that’ll help to ensure you never pay over the odds for the things you wish to buy.
Keep it fun: The first thing you should always do is smile at the vendor and try to make conversation. Keep it friendly and you’ll almost certainly save some money. In most Asian countries, a smile keeps the transaction going. When you are polite, friendly and have a good sense of humor, it is easier for the seller to give in. In some ways, haggling can be considered somewhat similar to flirting.
Study the market: Walk around the market and ask what the prices are before you start bargaining. You’ll find that many markets have several stalls selling the same, or similar items, so you can ask around at a few of them to get a good starting point on prices. Don’t buy at the first stall you see as you may well find it cheaper at another stall just two minutes later!
Start with a lowball offer: If the seller asks how much you’ll give them, your first offer should be around 50% or 25% less than what you actually think the item is worth. Start with a low price as this gives you a chance to negotiate, or if the seller demands too much you can just walk away.
Practice: If you are not that experienced in haggling, try practicing first with cheaper items. This will help ensure you don’t get ripped off when buying more expensive goods.
Fix a price in your head: Decide the price you are willing to pay for the item before you start haggling. Set yourself a limit and have the cash ready to show the vendor that that’s all you’re willing to pay when you haggle over an item and he or she proves a bit stubborn.
Ask for the best price: Ask the vendor what their best price is and then start your haggling from there. This will give you an idea of what the true price is if you really have no idea what you should be paying.
Justify your haggling: You might want to point out a few flaws in the item to try and get a cheaper price. For example, if the item is plastic but there are better quality glass ones, you can point out it should be cheaper. Or you might find a small defect that justifies a slight discount.
Act disinterested: Sometimes, you’ll only be offered the ‘real’ price when you act like you don’t really want to buy it. Ask the price, and then say it’s more than you can afford before putting it down and slowly walking away. More often than not, the seller will reply with his rock-bottom price in a last ditch bid to sell it to you.
After a few trial runs, you will learn how to haggle like the best of them. Be aware that if you show too much interest in something, this can actually harm your bargaining position. Nevertheless, remember to think of the shopping and haggling as a fun cultural experience, as opposed to an exercise in avoiding getting ripped off. Keep smiling and maintain a good sense of humor while haggling, and you’ll be surprised at the kinds of discounts you can find.