World Traveler Rhonda Delameter is no stranger to bargain-shopping. Here she shares some tips on the art of haggling in a foreign country.
Bargaining for goods and services is not common in the United States, but the majority of the world relies heavily on this type of commerce and trade in their day to day lives. Whether negotiating the price of produce at the market or the cost of a new pair of shoes at the bazaar or souk, bargaining is a common occurrence.
As a traveler you may not need to negotiate every day, but learning a bit of the fine art of bargaining will greatly enhance your interactions with people in the local communities you pass through. While Europe is not always known for the need to strike a bargain, many neighboring regions such as Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt, consider it an essential piece of daily life. SE Asia, Africa, and India also believe wholeheartedly in bargaining as an acceptable outcome for both parties.
You may ask what is the best way to begin bargaining for those new to the game? The first step is to determine just how much the desired item is worth to you. Not necessarily what is it worth as related to the price being asked, but how much it is worth to YOU. Next offer up a starting price, approximately half the asking price, being careful not to appear overly enthusiastic. An entertaining merchant will proceed to barter back and forth with you, upping your offers with counter offers of their own. As you increase your offer, perhaps by 10% with each turn, the game goes back and forth until a common price is agreed upon, or until it becomes apparent that an agreement cannot be made.
If the bargaining is just not to be made, that is okay. At that point you can decide to simply pay the merchants asking price, or simply walk away from the deal, which is perfectly acceptable. Merchants are savvy and are well aware what their final price needs to be in order to not lose money. In the end, you will need to decide if the price being asked is a good purchase for you.
For those who truly enjoy the art of bargaining, I offer up one note of caution. It is very easy to get so engaged in the process that you find yourself bargaining for items you really do not even care about purchasing. It is unfair to waste the time of merchants to bargain hard for something you turn down in the end. It is also worth noting that the $1.00 you are enthusiastically negotiating over may be just $1.00 to you, but to the merchant it is their job and the money goes to feed their family.
With this in mind, keep it lighthearted and in the spirit of which it is intended as a means to determining an acceptable end for all parties involved.