Bargaining is the task of getting the best price for an item that doesn’t have a fixed price tag.
Some love taking on the challenge while others hate the hassle. Whatever your preference, sometimes throughout your travels, bargaining will be a necessary and even expected task.
So here are 6 tips for bargaining and saving some money when you shop.
1. Know the Ballpark Range of What Something Should Cost
Before you ever go shopping, or before you ever purchase anything, it’s your responsibility to know a ballpark figure of how much something should cost. In other words, it’s wise to know what average prices are for what you want to buy in the country you’re in.
Guidebooks, blog articles, and even Wikitravel, are all good places to do a little shopping research to see about how much a silk shirt should cost in Thailand or to see the going price is for a carpet at the Kashgar bazaar.
2. Don’t Start Bargaining, Unless You’re Actually Interested
If you have no intention of actually making a purchase, it’s not worth it, or even fair to the vendor if you act interested (unless you really do want to buy, but the offering price is ridiculously high).
There are times when someone will walk up to you with a product that you really don’t need or want, and they will push to try to make a sale. If you're not really interested just smile and say, “thank you, but I really don’t need it.”
3. Pay Attention to What Others Pay
This is not always possible, but if there happens to be someone who purchases something ahead of you or if you just observe someone purchasing something at another stall (roughly the same thing), pay attention to how much they pay.
This not only goes for souvenirs, but also for food and non-negotiable items as well, especially when there's no written price anywhere.
4. Bargain with a Smile and a Positive Attitude
In general, vendors around the world, though sometimes pushy or aggressive, underneath it all are friendly, talkative, and kind (after all, their lives may depend on making a few sales a day – and unfriendly owners don’t normally sell too well).
Always approach bargaining with a smile on your face and a positive attitude. Not only will you be more respectful to the vendor, but in my experience you’re likely to get a better deal too!
I’ve seen plenty of people get annoyed when haggling with a vendor, and that simply doesn’t make the price lower nor does it help either side in coming to a price agreement.
5. Begin Low and Work Your Way Up (Compromise)
In your head, come up with a price that you would be willing to pay, and then state about 40 – 60 percent (can vary by country) of that as your initial offer. The seller will counter with their offer, then you’ll have to raise your offer, then the seller will slightly lower their offer again, and so on.
If you reach the price you had in your head, that’s great, buy it!
If the vendor won’t go that low, you either have to determine if the vendor honestly looks as though they won’t be able to make enough profit (in which case you may have to change your initial price thought), or if they’re trying a sales technique.
One thing I discourage is bargaining until it really looks like the vendor is not receiving any profit – it's their business and means of income so they really do need to make profit.
6. Say Thank You… and Walk Away
If the vendor doesn’t agree to sell, you can either bump up the amount you’re willing to pay, or you can express thanks and continue walking.
In this case the vendor will either wait a few seconds and then call you back to take your money, or if not, you can probably assume your price was just too low.
In the end when we bargain we have to remember the most important thing: Is what I’m paying worth it for me? Is that shirt worth $5 to me (even if someone else may have paid $4 for it)?
Is haggling over a minuscule discount going to hurt you more, or the vendor?
Armed with a little bit of local purchasing knowledge and a positive mentality, bargaining can be a fun way to score great deals and maybe even build some relationships while you travel and shop.