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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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