In countries that do not have fixed prices, like Thailand’s Chatuchak market in Bangkok, bargaining is king. It may seems like a strange concept when you come from places where the price is non-negotiable, but it can be quite a fun source of entertainment and feeling of satisfaction when you come away with what you perceive as a deal. Just be sure to find out if you are in a place that allows for this process before you start haggling or you may find yourself quite embarrassed.
This is the true definition of demand dictating price, as whatever people are willing to pay is what something is worth. You may see the same thing in a different place going for drastically more, maybe because there are additional costs factored in like transportation or venue rights – or maybe the vendor is gouging you. Don’t be surprised if it is more the former as the reason for price differentials and while bargaining can be great fun for you, it is the livelihood and reality for locals.
With that in mind, here are some pointers on how to bargain with the best of them.
Shop Around First
Generally, don’t buy from the first place you see. Especially when it comes to souvenirs, the same ones will appear throughout your trip so unless you think it’s an unbelievable price or something you have to have, hold off on it. This will also give you a chance to see what other vendors are selling it for and to get an idea as to what it is worth where you are.
Decide what you think it is worth and subtract 50%.
This is not meant to undermine what people are selling it for, but because you are in a place that allows for bargaining, chances are it is worth a lot less than what you would pay for it back home. If you find out the price is what your adjusted price is, go to 75%. This probably won’t be the price you end up paying, but it is a good starting point for the back and forth.
If the back and forth is going to take place, you need to be willing to compromise. There are some people who say one price and then walk away unless they get it – these people are usually jerks. You can’t play the game if you refuse to budge, but for some people it’s only about winning, hence why they are jerks.
Keep a Friendly Nature About It
You don’t want to come across as the guy who gives a bad name to your whole country. You will be able to tell right off the start in the process if the vendor is up for a little back and forth but if you act like you own the place, they will be less likely to be flexible themselves. Sure, they may not make the sale but what use is the sale if they are losing money on it? Just like shopping back home, it is a much better experience for everyone if you treat each other with respect.