Haggling can seem daunting at first, but it’s all part of the travel experience. Here’s a few tips to get you on your way.
Browse formal souvenir shops to get an idea of prices
Before starting to negotiate, you really need an idea of what’s a reasonable price. A good place to start is with fixed price shops. They’ll add on a mark up to cover overheads and running costs, of course, but you’ll get to see what kinds of prices are charged for goods of the quality you require.
Be good humoured
Haggling is theatre, and part of the travel experience, but it’s also how the vendor is making a living. Smile a lot, be nice and build a rapport with the sales person. Getting aggressive or angry isn’t going to get you a better deal, and nor is it going to make you feel good about the place you’re in.
Remember this is someone’s livelihood
A few dollars or dirhams off the price for won’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things, but in some countries, it could make a huge difference to a family’s income. Before you demand too low a price, think about what’s a fair discount and what might be a price that only a desperate seller would be forced to agree to. In general, the rule of thumb is to settle on a figure about half what was originally stated, but it’s not an exact science.
Don’t make promises you won’t keep
Once you offer a price, etiquette demands that you pay up if it’s agreed to, so don’t make an offer you’ve got no plans to honour. Think about what the item’s worth to you and don’t offer what you don’t intend to pay. If you find yourself in a situation that is getting awkward, look for an outcome where no one loses face. Be positive about the product and apologise for the fact that it’s beyond your budget.
Getting rid of a persistent hawker
Sometimes, pester power is the local norm, and it can be hard to shake off sellers that just won’t take no for an answer. If a polite “No, thank you” or “I’m just looking today” doesn’t cut it, you might need to be more creative. Suggesting that you’re looking for a particular colour or design that you know the vendor doesn’t have in stock might just work.