There is a real art to haggling and bargaining like a pro when traveling. Whether you are buying a knock off T-shirt in Asia, or silks and spices in India, a Persian rug in Morocco,or even your evening meal at a food market, there is a way to get the best price for you AND the store holder. I’ve used these tips on many occasions, from the roadsides in Africa, to remote islands around Papua New Guinea and in the markets around Asia. Very soon, whether you are a bargaining newbie, or seasoned traveler, using my tips, you too will be bargaining like a pro with your new found skills in no time!
Don’t be timid or frightened about haggling and bargaining, in some countries it’s the only way to do business. Be confident, even though you may not feel it! In countries where they do bargain and haggle, it’s considered rude if you don’t haggle or bargain, so unless you want to be ripped off (and they will rip you off as they consider us dumb westerners in this regard 🙂 ) you better brush up on your skills! In fact, I always say in Asia it’s their national sport!
1. Build Rapport
This is one of the most important steps when you are haggling or bargaining. The very best thing you can do is smile, be friendly and engage with the stall holder.
Have fun and don’t be in a hurry. Act as if you’ve got all the time in the world and you don’t really want the item anyway. It’s a game, so treat it like that…have the attitude, yes you think it’s nice but do you really need it?
Remember the store holder has done this hundreds of times before, so one of the tricks is for them to say nothing and then you start bargaining against yourself! So once you offer a price let them speak next!
If you show that you are really keen and really want the item they will not budge on price!
Always let the store holder state the price first. Ask them “How much?” This is a signal that it’s GAME ON!! They will probably ask you how much do you want to pay? Keep asking them “How much?”, until they answer. It will always be at least double the real price, so you know that, you can halve the price and that is around about what you pay for the item.
3. Start Low
So knowing that you will pay around half of their first price, start lower! So say they tell you 100, counter with 30 because you can always come up and never go down. There will be some theatrics, laughing and the haggling will go backwards and forwards. Enjoy the game and go up in five dollar increments, or whatever the equivalent is in the currency that you’re bargaining in.
4. Learn The Lingo
Now for you non Aussies reading this you probably have no idea what “lingo” means! Australians are notorious for shortening words and we have a language all our own called Aussie slang or Australian Strine. So in case you don’t know, we Australians called language, “lingo”!
Learn a few words in their lingo, such as “how much is it?” “what does it cost?” maybe even a few of their numerals. Become familiar with every day greetings, this will make for a better connection, lots more fun and shows that you have respect for their culture.
5. Stick To Your Story
Part of the game is always telling a story. In Asia they’ll tell you that your price will send them bankrupt!! “I go bankrupt!!!” they say. Everybody laughs, plays the game and then it’s your turn to tell them your story. Say things like our “I’m travelling I don’t have much money, I’m on a very strict budget, I’ve only got a small amount of money,” never tell them how much money you have, just stick with your story once you say it!
6. Separate Your Money
Never carry all your money with you, always leave most of it in your hotel safe or wherever you’re staying and budget for each day. Keep the majority of your money separate to what you are willing to pay, so they can’t see how much you actually have with you. Once they see hundreds of their currency or your dollars, you will you lose the game!
7. Compliments Work Wonders
Give them a compliment! Tell them what a great salesperson they are! They will love it, everybody will laugh again and they’ll tell you that you “bargain too good” again it’s just a part of the game.
8. The Old Number
There is a magic in an odd number. Often stall holders think that you put a lot of thought into your final price and what you’re willing to pay. I’ve found that if you use an odd number they believe that that is it your final price!
9. The Done Deal
Once you agree on a price and you shake your head yes, then you must pay that price you cannot renege on a deal!
Trust me on this one, as a Asian Newbie I negotiated a price on some perfume on the streets of Bangkok, the deal was done, then I wanted to inspect the bottle and open the package. I noticed it was very old and chipped so I refused and that’s when all hell broke loose!
Nothing serious, but the lady who owned the store made it known in her own lingo that I had reneged on the deal and was very vocal about it, following us through the market stalls on the street! Talk about embarrassing! I really thought the Asian mafia would come after me that night, it sounded pretty bad at the time!
10. Bigger Discounts
If you are buying more than one item from the stall holder it’s a given that you get a much better price. For example if you were buying one T-shirt versus five T-shirts, two pairs of shorts and a couple of hats, you’re always going to get a better price. Make sure you work out the pricing individually and then take a further discount off the lot.
Be careful, because sometimes you can end up with no discount if they just give you one set price for the lot. You must find out before the deal is done how much each of the items are first.
Always bear in mind that some of the stallholders will not only be feeding their families, but their extended families.
Once you get great at bargaining and haggling you will realise that their best price really is their best price and they won’t go any lower. After all they are in business and deserve to make a profit!
What tips can you offer where you have got had a great bargain or haggled for a better price that you can share with our community?