Bert’s Guide to Haggling
This guide to haggling is about making a fair deal that both the buyer and seller are happy with. When traveling in less-developed countries the vendor usually needs the extra “50c” much more than the tourist, but at the same time I don’t think anyone likes being “taken for a ride”. It’s a win-win philosophy.
I dislike shopping, especially if the item I’m shopping for is not edible. There are, how-ever, certain times when it is necessary for me to purchase some sort of merchandise such as souvenirs for friends and family, a replacement t-shirt if one of my two current ones gets destroyed, etc. In these cases I prefer to shop locally (such as at a market), and in most of the countries I frequent this means there are no set prices, hence this guide to haggling.
Featured Image: Typical market place in China. This is in Shenyang.
Bert’s Guide to Haggling
1. Learn the Basics of the Local Language
Even just knowing the most basic phrases subtly communicates to the vendor that maybe you have been in the country for more than a day and know how much things should cost. You don’t need much.
- How much is this?
- Thank you
2. Set Your Top Price
Before showing interest in something set a price in your head that you are willing to pay and will definitely not go over. If possible, get that exact amount and put it somewhere easily accessible, separate from the rest of your cash.
This price should be a fair one. One that you feel both you and the vendor would be happy with.
The best way to figure out what this price should be is to research it before-hand, e.g., on the internet, or in a fixed price shop – like a department store.
In the case where you have just spotted something you want then perhaps judge how much you would pay for it in you home country and take 20% or so off. This is relative to what country you are in.
One more way is to compare prices between different vendors.
3. Ask How Much
Once you have a maximum price on your head ask the vendor how much the item is, preferably in their language. If the price they give you is under or equal to the top price you are willing to pay then buy it. Sure you might be able to get it cheaper, but right now you are both happy.
If the vendor asks you what you are willing to pay, give them a realistic figure on the low-side, i.e., it gives you some room to bargain and hopefully they’ll accept a lower one. You’ll both be happy.
When the vendor states a price which is over your top limit then try the following tactics.
4. Make a “That’s Expensive!” Face
It is far better to use body language, such as facial expressions, to communicate you think something is too expensive. It adds a bit of shock value and also avoids causing offence.
5. State Reasons You Don’t Like It
Without mentioning the price, give the vendor reasons why the product is not suitable for you, e.g., “this stitching looks bad, I think Ill need to repair it”, or, “I don’t like the color”.
At this stage the vendor will often offer you a better price. Once again, if the price offered to you is under or equal to the top price you are willing to pay, then buy it.
6. Ask for a Discount
Smile and politely ask “Can you give me a discount?”
Often the price will drop instantly. Once again, if the discounted price is now in your range, buy the item.
7. Offer You Best Price
When the discounted price is still not in your price range then offer your top price.
Say “Will you accept xxx?”
If you have put this exact amount in a separate pocket (as suggested in step one) then you can pull out the money and add “It’s all I’ve got”.
In the case where you don’t have the exact amount and the vendor makes a counter offer simply tell him/that your price is the maximum you are willing to pay.
8. Walk Away
Finally, if the vendor still disagrees to your price, politely say thank you and walk away. Sometimes the vendor will call you back and give you your price. If not then it’s fine. Try another vendor and/or re-access your top price.
It’s important that you do not re-access your top price while you are haggling. Do it after you have walked away.
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Do you have anything to add to this guide to haggling? What methods do you use to get the best deal? Let us know your thoughts in the comments 😀 .