Before you begin to bargain…
#1. Get to Know the Culture
Before you enter a country, first research if it is bargaining is appropriate. For example, in many Asian countries, bargaining is very common. It is rare that you would ever buy something in Thailand without bargaining. However, in South Korea – even though it is in Asia – they would laugh at you if you tried to bargain. Even in markets, bargaining just isn’t something that you do in the Korean culture.
So, before you break out your bargaining skills – make sure that it’s okay to even bargain in the first place.
#2. Learn the Standard Prices
It can often be hard to know where to begin with bargaining when you don’t even know if the first price offered to you was fair or a complete rip off. It is best to get a handle on the average price of things. You can do this by looking online first, talking to other travelers or asking at your accommodation. Sometimes it just takes spending some time in the country to figure it out.
Once you know what a reasonable price to pay for something is, you will have more confidence in bargaining with someone and know when you want to walk away if they aren’t willing to give you a fair price.
#3. Start Really Low
When people tell you the price for something the first price will always be higher than the average price. Therefore, to bring it down you need to go a lot lower than what you are willing to pay. You can gauge this by having an idea of what you know is a reasonable price.
You may feel very rude asking for such a low price, but realize just like they will slowly bring their price down you will also need to bring your price up. Just don’t give an absurdly low number because this may insult them and they will refuse to do business with you.
#4. Shop with a Friend
The more someone wants your business, the more the ball is in your court. If you have a friend that is also interested in the same thing as you take them with you,
For example, let’s say you are both interested in buying a pair of pants. Only act like you are interested in one pair and bargain them to a fair price. Once you have a price that you agree on have your friend jump in saying that they might get a pair. Then ask if you can get a deal if you buy two. In my experience, the more I am willing to buy, the more of a discount they are willing to give.
#5. Realize What you are Really Bargaining Over
When in a third world country, the chances are that one USD will equal about one thousand dollars in their currency. So before you walk away because you think the vendors price is 500 baht over what you want to pay, realize what you are actually arguing over. It’s not actually $500, it’s more like fifteen cents. Are you really not going to buy that skirt because they won’t give you a fifteen cent discount?
The extra money shouldn’t be worth the hassle for you. However, that money will go a lot farther for the person that is selling to you.
You are negotiating with the people not fighting. Make sure to keep a smile on your face and keep the transaction respectful. They are just trying to make a living and if they don’t give you a price that you are happy with just walk away – no need to get angry.
I also expect the person selling to me to smile too. I have often picked one vendor over another simply because they were kinder to me.
#7. Show the Love
Sometimes you will meet people who right away give you a fair price or go above and beyond when serving you.In these situations I like to add a tip or pay extra and tell them to keep the change. The money goes a lot farther for them than it does for me back home. I think of it as a small way to reward their kindness.
Word and Images by Tessa Elliott
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