My favorite travel activity is visiting open markets and bazaars around the world. Many of my most cherished items have been purchased this way. No, it’s not as easy as walking into a department store, picking up an item and pulling your credit card out for the cashier, and I think that’s why I love it so much. There is a true art to haggling, and it’s an expected part of the buyer/seller process. For the first timer, it can be a tad intimidating.
Here are ten tips for the first time haggler.
1. Don’t stop at the first stall
Walk around the market and take your time. Decide AFTER scanning through the stalls exactly what you want. Remember there are NO REFUNDS, so you must be sure before buying. You may find a better vase four stalls down, so see what’s there and go back once you’re certain.
2. Don’t be timid
In most areas this is the way business is done. They’ll think you’re a FOOL if you pay the price that is first asked for. Remember that if you don’t haggle, that you’ll be ripped off
3. Do NOT insult the item or seller
Once you say “that’s a piece of junk” you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll end up either NEVER getting the item, or paying MUCH more than it’s worth. Insulting a persons wares, it equal to insulting the stranger who’s selling them.
4. Don’t hone in on ONE item
Look at a lot of the seller’s wares. You don’t want him/her to think you’re lusting after that vase. If that happens, you may find yourself paying more than it’s worth. In a situation like this, a little indifference can go a long way. Take my colorful Mexican espadrilles that I bought last year.
5. Watch the locals
You’ll get a good idea of how it’s done, and WHAT they actually pay for an item. That can help give you a baseline to work from
6. Start low
A LOT lower than you were thinking. When I was in Mexico and saw those gorgeous espadrilles, the seller wanted $30 for them. My first clue that he thought I’d bite was switching from pesos to dollars. I switched to pesos, offering him 75 pesos (about $5). He then took them off the rack to see if I’d like to try them on. Smart move on his part…because once I had them on, he could start complementing me on how they look (as well as have his “friends” do the same), but I wasn’t biting. His next move, a HUGE leap down to $20 (1/3 off). I shook my head that it was too much still.
7. Prepare to walk away
When he didn’t come back quickly enough with an offer, I turned and walked away. Of course, he began to chase me…asking what I’d pay. I was prepared to pay $15 (half of what he initially wanted), but told him 150 pesos – less than $10.
8. Once you agree….there’s NO looking back
He took the shoes, put them on the counter and wrapped them for me, asking for the 150 pesos. After all of the back and forth of haggling, you can’t change your mind once they’ve agreed to your price, so pull out your wallet.
9. Don’t have second thoughts
When I first began haggling, I’d walk away with the thought that maybe I could have got it for even less. Don’t. The sellers need to make money to feed their families, and you just enjoyed a cultural experience of what it’s like to buy and sell in this country. Be proud of yourself for not paying the first asking price.
10. Enjoy your purchase
I can tell you from experience, that you’ll enjoy what you bought so much more than walking into a souvenir shop and buying something you’ll never use. The memories of haggling in an authentic market or bazaar are as wonderful as what you just bought.