From the streets of Ubud, Bali to the busy souks of Marrakesh, everyone is haggling over the price in markets around the world. It's part of life for locals, and a lively attraction for travelers too. In short, at the world's street markets, haggling is essential (and can be fun) — but it can also result in acting like a jerk or insulting a vendor if you're out of your depths when you try it. Naturally, cultures and standards are different around the world, but here are some general tips to point you in the right direction:
1. Go in with a bit of background.
This can be as simple as starting out by Googling tips in advance to help you determine approximately what percentage the locals are known to increase prices in markets of that country. For example, I blog extensively about India — and as I have noted, vendors in that country mark up wares more than 10 times the reasonable value of high-priced items. If you want a rug in Marrakesh, read tips on the starting points of rugs there. Often, you can find shopping guides from bloggers who share the prices they got on common items in a particular destination, like this one I wrote on Morocco.
When you know that percentage, plan to start that low on your first offer. They might scoff, but it's part of negotiating. Ideally, you'll come out somewhere in the middle.
2. Know the price you're willing to pay.
Beyond knowing what percentage a vendor is likely marking up the price, you should look at the item as an individual and decide what it's worth to you. What would you pay for this in a real shop? If you pulled up the price tag on this dress at a department store back home, what price would you hope to see? Know that in your head — and use it as your final offer.
3. Keep a poker face.
This should be obvious, but don't act too excited when you see the item you've been dying for on your whole trip. Act calm and casual... and then caress your coveted new purchase lovingly in your hotel room later, after you got it for the right price.
4. Walk away.
If a vendor's final price doesn't match what you want to pay, walk away. They might call you back with a lower offer. If they don't, it's likely their final price is the lowest most vendors will go on a similar item. Now you know, which will help you negotiate better from there if you're still interested... or turn around and simply agree to that final price.
5. Don't ask if you're not interested.
If you're not going to buy something, don't ask the price. Especially in places like Fes, where people shop for rugs, vendors will want to make you tea and tell your the story of how the rug was made. When you turn that down and say, "Never mind, I don't want it", vendors will act (and maybe actually be) offended. Plus, it gets their hopes up for a sale which isn't very nice when you already know it's not happening.
6. Negotiate a single item first.
Typically when something catches a shopper's eye, a vendor will ask, "How many pieces do you want?" Don't say more than one even when you do want more than one. Let's say you find the cutest bracelet and then get the price where you like it. Now say, "OK — and if I take three, will you give me a discount?" This almost always works. The more you take, the better the discount. But, don't let them know you want multiple pieces until after you've gotten the price down, so you can keep the price for multiple pieces low, too.
Last, don't feel bad if you complete a sale that feels like a literal steal; the vendor wouldn't sell it at a loss. No matter what, be sure to say thank you and bid your vendor a happy day.
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