Here in the U.S., every item we buy in a store is tracked down to the penny. If the cash register is off by just a few cents at the end of the day, someone could be in real Barney [that’s trouble]. Our system of fixed price items ensures equality, and gives all shoppers the confidence that they are paying the same price as the person standing next to them. While that’s great and all, bargaining can be really fun…especially when you “win”. Unfortunately it just isn’t in our culture, and can even be seen as rude or offensive in some circumstances. Luckily for us , there are still parts of the world that rely on this old school way of doing business. So put your poker face on, and read our handy-dandy tips below about how to master the art of bargaining.
Walking through the markets, you will see a bracelet that you just, “OMG can’t live without.” Well, lucky for you, there are probably 17 other stalls in that market that are selling the same exact piece of jewelry. You want to be in control in this bargaining game though, so poke around and do a little research on what the typical asking price is [#streetcred]. This will also help you sniff out who is really trying to rip the cash right through your wallet and who is playing the game honestly.
Once you find the thing you just can’t live without, did your Nancy Drew homework, and are ready to engage in some bargaining banter, then it’s time to mentally establish your price limit. This is knowing the highest price you are willing to pay for that thing you want, and what price would leave you feeling like it was fair. Obviously prices vary when you bargain, but only you can decide how much that funky little wooden carved monkey is worth.
One of the single most important things to remember about the culture of bargaining is that it’s meant to be a social interaction as much as it is an operational transaction. Have respect for the sellers, and for their local cost of living. What may be cheap to you, could actually be very expensive for the local. It’s harmful to your buyer/seller relationship to rub this in, and at the end of the day just straight up rude, dude.
Bargaining is just like a relationship. Act like you don’t care, and you’ve immediately got the upper-hand in the deal. When shopping around, stay casual and never show excitement or interest in an item. You lose all bargaining power the second the seller knows you really want it.
What’s important to note here though, is that confidence is key. These people are smart. They bargain all damn day and have been in the business all their lives. They can smell weakness from a mile away. If they sense you’re a pushover or don’t know what you are doing, they will try to squeeze more dollars out of your pocket. So be as cool as a cucumber, and as confident as Kanye.
There are occasions when you don’t have the chance to shop around or research the cost, but you’ve found an item you reeeeally wanna take home with you. In the case that you honestly have no freakin’ clue the value of what’s in front of you, just cut the price by 50-75% and go from there. You’ll know right away from the seller’s reaction whether you’ve gone for a price that’s way off. If they accept your price, you’ve offered something too high [sucker!]. If you sense an angry or rejected reaction, your offer was too low. If that’s the case, ask the seller what they think is fair and go from there. One of our favorite lines is, “Let’s meet in the middle,” because who can resist compromise??
Scour that bad boy for any damages to the exterior, whether it’s chipping paint, cracks, or any other signs of wear. If you find something, but it’s not enough to scare you off, then you can totally use this in your favor. Show it to the seller and say you want to buy, but that you want that discount for the damage.
You want $5 and they want $7, and no one is budging. If you’ve come to a standstill in your negotiations, it’s time to whip out some of those extra helpful, schmoozing tactics. Our personal favorite is to start chit chatting away. Get to know the seller by asking about their family, where they live, and even tell them about yourself. Build a relationship so that your seller feels like you are a friend and therefore 87 million times more likely to cut you a good deal and come down on their price [scientifically proven]. If that doesn’t work, try cracking a joke or two to lighten the mood. A good rapport is definitely the easiest route to a good deal. Sometimes we even extend a hand shake, while repeating our price and flashing a big smile. If it doesn’t work, you’ll at least get a giggle out of that tough cookie.
This strategy only works if you are genuinely prepared to walk away from a deal you’ve started negotiating. Here’s the low down: you can’t get your goodies down to the price you’re comfortable with. As a good bargainer however, you’ve already mentally established the price you’re willing to pay so it’s officially time to say it out loud. Do it in a way that is firm and provides intent such as, “hey, this is too much. I will buy it from you for x amount.” Something to that tune. Basically, it tells the seller that you are serious and not just bargaining for fun. After you’ve verbalized your buying price and you still aren’t winning. It’s time to walk away. Say “thank you” and make your exit. Don’t huff, don’t puff and whatever you do, don’t look back. Walk slowly enough that they you won’t get lost in the crowd on your way out, but not too slowly that your strategy looks obvious. If the price you’ve offered is truly fair, the seller will generally come after you agreeing to what you’ve offered. Boom. You’ve got yourself a deal.
Respect is a huge part of the haggling culture so the rule of thumb here is that you shouldn’t negotiate with someone unless you are truly ready to put your money where your mouth is. You can definitely ask for prices, but if you start to bargain and the seller agrees on your price, then you are generally obligated to complete the sale. If you’ve started negotiating and realized you don’t actually want it or the price range is out reach, no worries. Just politely say that you’ve changed your mind and genuinely aren’t interested any more. This way it makes it clear it’s not just part of your bargaining efforts. Once you’ve agreed on a price however, plan to pay up or run fast!
Once you’ve agreed on the price, shake hands and make the exchange. Don’t gloat or show any emotion at the final agreement, as this is a business transaction after all. If you got the price you wanted, best not to rub it in. If you are paying more than you wanted, it was your decision to make the deal, so you have to accept it and move on!
Bargaining is an awesome part of the cultural experience abroad that you don’t want to miss out on. The more you practice, the more confident and comfortable you are…and the more fun you have. Remember this is a social tradition and relies entirely on the human connection made between yourself as the buyer, and the seller in front of you. You can learn a lot about a place, just by walking through its markets. Oh and the satisfaction of negotiating a price you want isn’t half bad either.
Warning: Bargaining can become addictive. Side effects may include trying to bargain when you get home. Bargaining hotels, food and rides. Please consult your friends if side effects occur.
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