Where is it OK to bargain?
You shouldn’t bargain with shopkeepers. It’s bad manners, right? Not necessarily.
Bargaining or haggling is an art form in countries like Thailand and Bali, where the shopkeepers expect you to haggle on the price (or hope you don’t so they can make a killer profit). In these countries, it’s part of the fun of shopping.
If you’re not sure if it’s OK to haggle, look for price tags. The types of stalls and shops that expect you to haggle are the ones where items don’t have prices marked. So not in supermarkets and stores with set prices, but market stalls and clothing stores in tourist areas are fair game.
How to bargain
Step 1. No thanks, just browsing! – Don’t look too interested in the item you want to buy. Instead walk slowly around the shop, like you’re just window-shopping.
Step 2. How’s your poker face? – Ask the price of an item with no interest in your face.
Step 3. Be bold, start low – For your first offer, drop the price by 50-75% of the original asking price. They will say no, but that’s a good place to start. Don’t worry, they won’t have a heart attack – it’s all part of the game!
Step 4. Pay or walk away – Slowly increase your price as the shopkeeper brings his down. When you get to the price you’re willing to pay, hand over the money to complete the deal. If the price doesn’t get to what you want, just walk away.
Step 5. Play hard to get – The shopkeeper will call after you as you walk away but play hard to get. Say things like “I’m not sure”, “It’s cheaper someone else” or “I don’t really need it”.
Step 6. Final offer – If all goes to plan, the shopkeeper will call after you with his final offer. Now it’s up to you to take it or leave it.
Do’s and don’ts
Firstly, you should do your research and work out a benchmark price. Visit 3 different stalls and ask them the price of an item with no intention of buying. (Make sure these stalls are not next to each other!) This will give you the usual asking price and you will know what to expect.
Don’t be too serious about it. SMILE! For Thai people it is important not to “lose face”, so don’t get angry while bartering. If you are tired and cranky, come back another day.
No buyers remorse – once you’ve bought something, don’t ask the next stall owner selling the same item how much it is. It’s better not to know! Just be happy with your price.
Remember that this stall will not be the only one selling the stuff you want. You’ll be able to get it elsewhere if you aren’t happy with the price.
Don’t buy anything on your first day; spend some time familiarising yourself with the local shops and stalls, comparing prices.
Learn a few words of the local language, especially numbers and prices. The stall owners will think you’re an experienced haggler if you can say a few local words.
Don’t flash your money around before you agree on a final price. This is considered bad manners, and it’s not wise in any case.
If possible, don’t initiate the bargaining – wait for the shopkeeper to tell you the price. If the vendor senses you want the item, it will be harder to bring the price down.
Shopkeepers bargain for a living so they won’t make it easy for you. But have fun with it!