Ever wondered how people come home with all these great bargains from their overseas trips? Beautiful dresses from Thailand, wooden statues from Bali, shoes from Vietnam. The list is endless. Well it has a lot to do with what I call the Art of Haggling.
Sounds easy, right? Things are cheaper in many countries already anyway, so you don't have much to loose. Well, unfortunately that's not always how it works. You will be surprised by the initial markups of some sellers.
Those obviously fake Nike sneakers that are actually quite uncomfortable, but just look so damn cool, can't be that expensive, so you think. That quickly changes when the tiny sales woman types in a few digits into her calculator and passes it over to you with a friendly smile. You quickly try to convert the currency into a more familiar one... $80!!!! That can't be right... You calculate it again... $80!!!
WHAT! That's almost more than what you'd pay for a genuine pair of shoes back home. So how are you gonna bargain an ridiculously overpriced item down to a reasonable amount?
Here's a guide to: The ART of HAGGLING
If you are from a Western country, the art of haggling may be foreign to you. However, it is a skill that will come in very handy when travelling. In a lot of countries you will find that you will have to haggle for the items you buy. The seller is not particularly dishonest when he or she asks for a high price to begin with. It is part of the art of haggling.
The seller will start with a high price that may even seem ridiculous. Then the customer asks for a ridiculously low price. You’ll do this 2 or 3 times until you meet in the middle.
I personally tend to walk away if the starting price is ridiculously high, since it makes it harder to haggle. Other people see it as a challenge. Be prepared that some seller will not sell the item to you for your asking price, even though it may seem reasonable, since they know that they can sell it for a lot more to an inexperienced tourist.
This is why the art of haggling is so important. The more people know about it and the more people practice it, the less people will be ripped off overseas.
Don’t consider yourself a cheapskate and don’t ever feel bad. Your gut feeling will tell you what’s right and wrong.
You’ll bite yourself in the behind when you buy an item and see it for 80% less somewhere else. That’s when you know you’ll have to start haggling.
The mighty calculator: Many people don’t speak English and a calculator becomes an indespensable necessity. Don’t worry, you won’t have to carry a calculator around with you. Every shop will have a calculator. Trust me! You will usually pass it back and fourth until you have come to an agreement.
Humor: This is a very important part of haggling. You will need a sense of humor. It will help you to take the transaction less seriously and it will make both parties more comfortable. And you might even get a better deal. If you are perceived as a nice person the sellers are more willing to give you a good price compared to an arrogant and bossy customer.
Know your currency: Haggling doesn’t work if you don’t know the local currency and the conversion rates. If you look unsure, sellers will notice that and won’t take your bargaining seriously. Always act like you know what you are doing. If you are in a two currency country such as Vietnam (Dong and US Dollar) it is recommended that you haggle in the local currency. This will often give you the opportunity to lower the price a lot more than doing it in US Dollars. For example: 1 US Dollar = 20 700 Dong
It willl be much harder to haggle the less digits you have to work with. Haggling below $1 becomes almost impossible, because $0.75 won’t look appealing to any seller.
15 000 Dong however has a completely different look and effect.
Deals: If you are at a store that sells a lot of things that you like, it is a good idea to ask for a deal. The more you buy from the same seller the smaller the price per item becomes. Once you have found a good store with a fair asking price it is recommended that you do most of your shopping here.
Enjoy it: Haggling can be a hassle, but it is also a lot of fun! You will certainly have a laugh with the sellers and it is a great way of getting to know the people and their culture. See it as a kind of cultural exchange. You are not only exchanging money and items, you may exchange a smile or even have a cup of tea at the store and a good conversation. Most sellers welcome their customers immensly and will be happy to give you a deal that will satisfy both parties.
There are the odd ones who only sell their items if it means a huge profit for them. So be wise and don’t buy because you fell like you have to!