Have you ever walked away from a vendor with that sinking feeling you were ripped off? Have you bought something overseas and arrived home only to have a friend tell you that they got the same thing—but for half the price? Here are five sure-fire haggling tips (and a video tutorial) that will help you get that great souvenir, at a great price:
5) Confuse the vendor. (Is this guy really a monk, or is it a clever disguise for haggling?)
Typically, vendors will ask you where you come from. Why? They are trying to size you up to charge you accordingly. Vendors have different prices in mind for Europeans and Americans and they even adjust the prices according to where in Europe you come from. If they can’t size you up so well, they’re thrown off their game.
This might sound devious, but you can do it nicely, playfully:
“Where are you from?” they ask.
“Where do you think I’m from?” you respond.
They rattle off a list of places, maybe even try out some foreign languages on you, and you smile beatifically, giving an occasional nonchalant shrug (or better yet, if you speak multiple languages respond in a little, just a little, of each). Play coy. Which leads me to the next point…
4) Keep calm. And keep quiet. (That Buddha’s got a thing or two to teach you about bargaining).
Keeping calm is obvious. But keeping quiet? Sounds like a counter-intuitive Zen koan, right? How can you haggle if you’re not… well, talking? But think about it– the more you speak, the more they can place your accent and background. So make your responses short, but pleasant. Remember that it’s a business transaction and that it’s not necessary to get personally acquainted with the salesperson.
However, there are some places where a lengthy, leisurely conversation (or a passionate debate) is part of the transaction, which leads me to…
3) Be aware of the local customs. (This woman isn’t pointing her feet at you, so make sure you don’t point those filthy appendages of yours at her).
Huh? What do dirty feet have to do with haggling? The point is that you’ve got to be aware of the local customs and manners. In some countries, the advice you have read thus far will work like gold and you’ll get in, get out, and get a great price on that one-of-a-kind souvenir. But in other cultures, the advice I have given is totally wrong and will get you nowhere. Be fluid and adapt yourself. How? First, watch the locals and then imitate them. Even if you don’t understand a lick of the language, you’ll get a sense of the rhythm of the transaction by watching a few.
But no matter where you go:
2) Be prepared to walk. (Yes, those handmade, Moroccan shoes were made for walking. Get ready to use them).
No, I don’t mean from site to site! I mean that you have to be prepared to walk away from that perfect souvenir if the price isn’t right. Non-attachment is one of the keys to haggling, no matter where you are in the world. The less interest you show in an item, the harder the vendor will try to convince you that it, and the price, is great.
In fact, some of the best deals I’ve gotten have been struck when I have literally walked away. The moment my feet have started moving, the price started moving too—down, that is.
1) Keep a target price, and item, in mind and stick to it. Adamantly. (Don’t walk away with bananas when you really wanted to buy avocados).
Stay focused on what you want and what you pay for it. It’s common sense, but you’d be suprised at how is it is to get carried away in the haggling itself and end up walking away with that mosque-shaped alarm clock (that rings five times a day to remind you to pray!) you never knew you wanted.
Did we miss one? Got a haggling tip that always works for you? Tell us about it!