Don’t Get Ripped Off: 10 Tips for Bargaining Abroad
Shopping for the local specialties is often one of the highlights of foreign travel. Each culture has its own pricing traditions, many involving haggling and discounting, and it's always a good idea to read up about the specifics before arriving at your destination. Regardless where your jetsetting takes you, though, there are bargaining tips and tricks that can help you get the best deal on whatever your heart desires, be it a handmade leather bag, a Persian rug, an intricately carved wooden statue, or, you name it.
It's always wise to convey modesty when heading to the markets. Merchants, like most people, will probably judge you based on what they see first, and that means your clothing and accessories. If they think you have a lot of money, prices will be higher from the get-go.
When you spot the thing you want, avoid looking at it directly for too long. The idea is not to let the vendor know which item you covet. Look at similar merchandise and be discreet about checking out the one calling to you. As soon as the seller sees the desire in your eyes, the price will jump accordingly.
Holding or touching something immediately conveys ownership and establishes a bond between the object and the person holding it. Many vendors will try to force things into your hands for this very reason. By refusing to touch or pick up an item, your emotional distance will prompt the seller to lower the price in an effort to reel you in.
The ability to haggle (successfully) for an item is far greater when you're not attached to it. In other words, focus on a purse of the same size and material as the one you want but in a different color, and then proceed to bargain down the price. The vendor will observe your relative indifference and is likely to ask for less to secure a sale. Once the price is set, pick up the bag you wanted all along.
It can be tricky to conceal your emotions and manage facial expressions when you're excited about making a purchase, but treat the process as if it were a game of poker. The less interested you seem to be in an item, the more desperate the seller and the faster the price will fall. Conversely, if you show your excitement and attachment, they sense that you'll be willing to pay a little extra to get what you want.
If a vendor doesn't quote a price you like, the best way to change the dynamic is to turn your back and walk away. This may feel scary and make you worry about losing out on a treasure, but most times the action prompts the merchant to run after you with a lower price, especially on big-ticket items. Remember, you can always turn around and go right back.
Exchange rates on national currencies are constantly in flux, but it's always smart to travel with some cash in the local currency in addition to United States greenbacks. Many merchants prefer to be paid in dollars, so use this as leverage to score extra discounts while also avoiding transaction fees.
It's hard to bargain for a low price when all you have are large bills. Be sure to carry change so that you can pull out lesser amounts to add validity to your claims of only having so much and not wanting to spend a lot.
While it's unrealistic to aspire to learn every language spoken in every country you visit, covering the basics is important if you're angling for the best deal. Learn numbers, the name of the currency, and phrases such as "how much," "I only have XXX," "too much," "how about," and, of course, "thank you."
There's no reason not to be friendly when bargaining on prices, even if the process doesn't result in a sale. Flirting, on the other hand, almost never results in a discount and can often create an unwanted power dynamic. On the other hand, flirting is a tactic used by many vendors to catch people off guard or inflate their ego and then charge a premium. Don't fall into the trap.