You might not be used to haggling or bargaining in the United States, but this sometimes fun and other times uncomfortable style of negotiation is the day-to-day activity in many countries. In some corners of the world it’s so important that if you want a fair price, then it’s a practice you have to engage in.
In many parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, haggling is considered a normal and often expected part of any shopping experience. You’d be looked at strangely if you DIDN’T haggle!
If you’re like me, you might start the game a bit rusty, but with these tips you’ll be able to not only haggle well, but also understand how to play the sellers’ game in their own turf.
1. Study the market
Every market, from the most basic to the most complex, needs to be studied. Walk around and ask for prices on several items in different stores to have a sense of what they expect you to pay. Also, make sure these stores are open for haggling and are not based on set prices. In any case, don’t haggle, yet.
2. Know what you want, but look indecisive
Play it cool, look around, and admire their merchandise, not just the items you want. If you like something in particular, don’t let them know you’ve fallen in love with it. Be aware of your body language and control it, just like in a poker game. If you show too much emotion towards an item, you lose all of your haggling power.
3. Decide how much you’re willing to spend
Before you haggle, decide what your maximum price is. This will help you focus and decide when to walk away if the price doesn’t go down.
4. Practice first on inexpensive and unwanted items
Practice haggling on things that you are less interested in and can therefore walk away from easily. Having emotional attachment to an item means that you won’t think or haggle rationally.
5. Always be friendly
Always be respectful and friendly with the merchant. Casually mention that you’d be happy to refer friends if they work with you on lowering the price.
6. Start a conversation before negotiating, if possible
Small talk is a great way to connect with the merchants. The conversation can be about anything, from the weather to the nearby tourist sights. Sometimes this can be as simply as just a friendly greeting and a smile.
7. Learn a few catch phrases in their language
Nothing opens the door for you like saying, "How are you?" or "How much?" in your destination’s native tongue. A few words might bring a smile and set things flowing with the merchant.
8. Don’t make the first offer
Ask first what their best price is on the item you’re interested in. This will signal that you’re looking for a bargain without giving up any of your negotiating power. If you start the negations, then you automatically limit your price. If the merchant declines to answer, then start fairly low, but never less than half of what you think the final price should be. There’s haggling, and then there’s insulting the merchants.
9. Don’t be afraid to walk away
If the price goes too high, give a final offer. If it doesn’t work, be friendly and thank them for their time; then walk away slowly. Often, you will get called back with the final offer you made, or something slightly higher. The ball is then in your court.
10 Don’t forget this is a cultural experience
This is a way to get to know how things work in different countries, so don’t be upset if prices don’t go your way. And if they do, enjoy the experience, the low price, and thank the merchant for their friendliness.
Now, are you ready to haggle like a pro?