It might seem strange to haggle for Westerners but having some haggle skills is essential for shopping in many places around Asia. The fun part is that you can negotiate for almost anything, including hotel rooms, clothes to taxi rides. You might feel uncomfortable at first, but once you master the art, it will be a skill to serve you for life. Here are some tips for haggling effectively.
Shop around first
By getting an idea of some of the prices on offer, you will be better informed about what to offer. It will also give you a bargaining tool if you know a nearby shop is offering the same item for less. Try to avoid buying what you want in the first shop you go to, as you will probably find what you are looking for in several others. In the same breath, avoid buying at tourist markets and malls where tourists are more likely to go. Many of these places have been inflated with tourist traffic and many have paid the first price they are offered, so haggling becomes defunct.
Vendors are more likely to offer good prices if you are the first sale of the morning. This is considered to be the lucky sale and it is more probable that you will get your goods for less. The same goes for night markets, so try to arrive as the vendor is setting up for the night.
Try not to confuse teasing with offense, and act shocked when the vendor tells you the first price. Be open and view it as a friendly interaction. The more you joke around but hold firm on your price, the more likely it is that the vendor will warm to you and offer the price that you are asking for.
Even if the item is something that you really want, try to act like you could live without it. Pointing out flaws and marks is also part of the game and will not offend the vendor. They fully understand that you can find the same item elsewhere so they will try to close the sale as quickly as possible.
Start off at the bottom
Never set the price yourself, let the vendor offer the first price. Assume this is double the ‘real’ price and halve it. You can then work towards the middle bit by bit. This is where some prior research comes in handy. Remember that you should be willing to bend a little bit on the final price, in order not to embarrass the vendor. Make sure that they have the final word and you would have ‘saved face’ for the vendor and bagged yourself a bargain.
If negotiations are getting you nowhere, the most powerful weapon you have in your arsenal is being able to walk away. If they really want you to buy, the shopkeeper should follow you. Remember that you will be able to find the same item elsewhere. If you do decide to return after a failed bargaining, don’t try to haggle again. Don’t be too worried if the shopkeeper doesn’t follow you as they will also be aware that another tourist may buy at the price they are offering. However, if you do reach an agreement, you are obliged to buy the product. Deciding not to buy after haggling is considered to be very bad form indeed.
Speaking the local language
Even just using words like ‘discount’, ‘expensive’ and numbers can make the world of difference. Speaking a few words in the local language will earn you respect, shows interest in other cultures and will work wonders at getting you significant discounts. Most importantly of all, when you have finished haggling and have completed the purchase, always remember to thank the vendor!