To most western people, the idea of haggling is both fun and intimidating, especially for first timers. Seldom do we get the chance to test our haggling skills at a market or store and it can be quite a shock to suddenly find yourself in an environment where you’re expected to haggle for almost everything, from taxis to food to accommodation. Ultimately the purpose of haggling is to arrive at a price that you feel comfortable paying and the vendor feels comfortable selling at. While haggling can seem like a daunting prospect there are several things you can do to ensure you get the best deal:
- Be polite throughout the bargaining – Haggling is one of the oldest concepts known to man and is deeply rooted in the values of numerous cultures. By engaging in the process of haggling it’s expected that you will adhere to these values and maintain a polite and civil tone throughout the process.
- Let the salesman give you the opening price – Giving the opening price as a potential buyer is a great way of exposing yourself as an amateur haggler and leaves you with very little manoeuvrability when it comes to setting a price, as your initial offer may be far higher than anything the vendor expects to earn for the goods and the only way is upwards in price.
- Make your opening offer low but not insulting – This can be difficult to gauge depending on your location as every culture has their own expectations on what constitutes a reasonable opening offer. A good rule of thumb is to start at 25% of the asking price and then work your way upwards from there; however, some locations, such as China, you can start the bargaining process with as little as one percent of the asking price on some goods such as electronics or fake clothing.
- Bargain in progressively smaller increments – Ensure that your bargaining has a pattern that suggests you’re nearing your maximum. There’s no point opening with 1200 rupees before going 1250, 1400, 1425, 1500, 1600 as this will suggest you’re more open to paying a higher price, while 1200, 1350, 1450, 1500, 1525, 1540 shows that you’re getting close to a price point you’re happy with.
- Mention that you can get it cheaper elsewhere – If you’re in a busy marketplace, it’s highly likely there are two, three or even a dozen different stalls all selling the same goods that you are currently looking to purchase. A useful technique for lowering the price is to mention that you can get the same item for a lower price elsewhere.
- Add more to the deal – If you’re looking to purchase two shirts it’s always good to start the bargaining with a negotiation over one shirt rather than both, as this gives you greater leverage later on as it’s always better for the salesman to sell two shirts rather than one. If you’ve negotiated a price of 150 rupees for one shirt start the process again for adding a second shirt, how about two for 280 instead?
- Don’t insult the person or the goods – Haggling is a fun activity and one that warrants respect from both parties. Don’t insult the salesman or the quality of the goods during the bargaining process as this will only make the negotiations less friendly rather than getting you a better deal. If you feel the need to critique the quality mention that the shirt is slightly too big or slightly too small to fit you properly rather than pointing out the stitching is inferior or the quality is poor.
- Be prepared to walk away – Perhaps the most underutilised tool in your haggling arsenal is being prepared to walk away if you’re unable to reach a price you want. Often this will determine if the salesman was correct when he said that he was unable to go any lower on price, as a sale for a lower price is better than no sale at all and he’s about to lose that sale. If he’s unwilling or unable to lower the price even after you’ve left then you know that is the lowest he’s prepared to go on the price and you can always return later to buy it.
So what should a typical haggling conversation look like? To use an example from a market stall purchasing two shirts the conversation should normally go as follows if you’re browsing shirts at a particular stall:
Shopkeeper: Hello my friend, perhaps you want to buy some shirts today?
You: Yeah, I’m interested in buying one if I can find something I like, how much do you have on this one?
S: This shirt is good quality and for you I can do a very good price, 250 rupees.
Y: Hmm 220 rupees is quite high for a shirt like this, I can do you 80 rupees for it though.
S: 80 rupees? No, my friend, this shirt is very good quality, see it’s ‘Armani’, very good brand. I can sell for 220 rupees only.
Y: Hmm yes it is quite a nice shirt but 200 is still too much, I can buy it for 200 from the other store. I’ll give you 120 rupees for it.
S: 120 for this? No, my friend, I cannot sell so low, this is worth at least 180.
Y: 180 rupees? I can do 135, this shirt might not even fit me yet.
S: It will fit, is perfect size for you. 160 rupees, special price.
Y: Ok I’ll give you 145 if I can buy two shirts for this price. 290 total.
S: Ok my friend, for you, both shirts for 300.
While this whole exchange can take anywhere from 15 seconds through to several minutes as each side dramatises their offers the above is an example of finding the right price for goods purchased from a market. Even goods with a fixed price attached to them can be negotiated, though the overall markdown may be lower than in the example above. Keep in mind that if your friends have purchased an item from the same store previously, it’s quite rude to walk up and demand the same price as your friend got, it’s normally expected that you will engage in the same bartering process your friend did in order to get the same deal.