Bargaining art (Part 1)

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Bargaining, or haggling, is a way of life in many cultures.  It is considered a normal and often expected part of any shopping experience.  For many people, including me, this process can be somewhat uncomfortable.  Will they be insulted if Ibargain?  How low is too low?

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Bargaining, on the other hand, can be graciously and successfully done if it is looked more as a social event that could lead you to the best price possible.

Here are some tips that will improve your bargaining skills while keeping it casual and friendly with the locals:

1.  Study the market

Hop around, scope the market, and ask for some prices before attempting your first bargain.

2.  Learn a few catch phrases in their language

Nothing opens the door for you like saying, “How are you?” or “How much?” in your destination’s native language. You don’t need to know much of their language; just a few words will bring a smile and set things flowing with the vendor.

3.  If possible, strike a conversation before negotiating

Spend a few minutes chatting up the merchant before you attempt to open negotiations.  Small conversations are great ways to connect with them.  They will be more inclined to make a deal if they have already invested time in you.

Striking a Spanish conversation in a market in Cuzco, Peru got me a scarf for 10 soles versus the 70 soles my English friend paid for the same item.

4.  Know what you want, but look indecisive

Play it cool, look around, and admire their merchandise.  If you like something in specific, don’t let them know you’ve fallen in love with it.  If you do, you lose all your bargaining power.

Chiang Mai, market bargaining

5.  Start at a fraction of the asking price

Deciding how low to begin your side of the bargaining depends on what you’re shopping for. Typically, on markets that are open for bargaining, you can start your offer between 25% and 50% of the marked price.  It’s almost guaranteed that wont be your final price, but it gives you room to play.  There’s nothing more disappointing in a bargaining game than starting too high.