How To Haggle
We all love a good bargain, particularly when the discount is in front of us, with all the hard-bartering work already done. All you need to do is a quick online price check to know you are getting a top deal, then hand over your cash and the bargain prize is yours.
But when it comes to bargaining the old-fashioned way – face to face with someone who really wants to barter and see what you are made of – then things can suddenly become a little bit more interesting. If you have ever been on holiday and seen it in action in a souvenir shop or busy souk, you’ll know what we mean.
Not everyone enjoys a good barter but when traveling there are times when it is difficult to avoid. To help you overcome your fear and bag that bargain, we’ve put together a list of the 10 tips to use when haggling abroad.
So, sit back, take note, and get ready to get your barter on…
Do Your Research
We’re not talking hours of internet price comparisons here but something more ‘down on the ground’. The first step to becoming an awesome haggler is to get to know the lay of the land. Check out the street or market place first to get a feel of what’s selling and what you would actually like to buy. Also know when it is appropriate to haggle, as it may be different depending the country and their culture, particularly during religious festivals and on Holy days.
Have a good idea of the currency and exchange rates too, so you’re ready to do the math ‘on the hoof’ as you try to bargain a price down. And if you don’t know them already, learn a few key phrases – simple greetings, yes, no, ‘thank you’ and the numbers 1-10 will stand you in good stead when the haggle is really on.
If you’re heading for a local marketplace, you may well find several stalls selling the same item, so take a note of the different prices and any difference in quality so you can work out which stalls or shops you should start with first. Also chat to local shoppers to find out what they typically pay so you have a good idea of what to aim for.
Consider Shopping At The End Of The Day
Also try out different times to head out for your haggle. One good idea for shopping in a marketplace is to go towards the end of the day, when sellers are more likely to strike a quick deal as they are preparing to close and could well be eager to offload their stock. It may mean you have a more limited choice but if you really do know what you want to buy then this could prove to be a shortcut to sealing a pretty good deal.
Build A Rapport
OK, you may think your cheeky, easy-going persona is all you need to cut through to the deal but when it comes to effective haggling you need more than a few shrugged shoulders and a cheesy smile. Yes, it should be fun but shop owners can spot a novice haggler a mile off, so you need to work quickly to build a rapport. One way is to show respect, and that means being aware of the right manners and customs. What might be funny or polite in one country or location, may actually be considered rude in another. And knowing how you should interact can really grease the haggling wheels. A handshake for example can be important, but how you do it could well seal the deal. Figure out these rules of engagement and you’ll be up and running.
Hold Your Own
Confidence is key in the haggling game and you need to calmly hold your own. Done well, haggling is a performance and can be very entertaining! Your seller is going to try and convince you of all sorts; he is insulted by your low offer, that you will not get a better deal anywhere, that you are taking money out of his pocket…anything to keep you in the store until you buy something. Enjoy the interaction, show respect but don’t feel pressured into buying something you don’t want.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
No, we don’t mean start a conversation with the seller about the comedy genius of Larry David but rather try to keep your best poker face in place at all times. Going in all enthusiastic about a product is going to kill the haggle stone dead. Remain cool and even play a little hard to get and you’ll be surprised how far it will get you when looking to drive a hard bargain. The impression you want to convey is cool indifference to the object for sale – and that you have no problem in putting it back on the shelf and walking away if the price is not right.
Set Your Limit
If you only follow one rule from our haggling guide, then this is it. Be clear what the object of your haggling desire is worth to you, then set your maximum budget limit and never go over it. You want to haggle down, not up – otherwise it’s not really successful haggling!
Without a limit in your mind, you could also get carried away with the buzz of bargaining and find yourself paying way too much for something you could get cheaper down the road.
Don’t Buckle Under Pressure
It’s worth being a little worldly-wise when heading off to haggle, especially if you are obviously an ‘out of towner’. Often the shopkeeper wants you to make a purchase more than you want to buy and so could have a host of tactics to ensure he gets a sale. This can include another ‘shopper’ in the store commenting on the amazing deal on offer. Or the vendor could offer to go and find something you will really like from another shop or stall, and so increasing the pressure for you to buy, as he has gone to so much trouble. Keep polite but firm. If the price is not right, or they don’t have what you want then stick to your guns.
Bring A Friend
Take a wingman. Having a back-up in the negotiations can help and will also take a little of the intensity out of a haggling session. And, if you know someone local or who has lived in the country for some time and knows more about the insider details of the local haggling scene, even better. Not only will you have a sounding board when it comes to a final price, but you’ll learn from them, and be more equipped in the fine art of haggling the next time you venture out.
If The Price Is Too Much, Leave
This is the ultimate ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to haggling and you should never be afraid to use it. First up, it can be your final crafty move in bagging that bargain – if they really want to sell then walking away could well force the seller to reveal their very best price. Deal then sealed. But if you really have taken the negotiation as far as you can, and you either can’t afford the price or still think it is too high, then now’s the time to call it quits. Be polite, leave on a smile and a thank you. Then save your holiday dollar for another fun haggling session, another day.
- The Art Of Haggling – BBC Travel
- The Art Of Haggling – Forbes
- How To Haggle – WikiHow