One of the biggest fears that we face when travelling to an overseas destination is that of being ripped off, of being a part of someone’s mischievous plan of making extra money that will not be earned the honest way. Quite frankly this can happen for a number of reasons and in any country – starting with the plain simple that people in other countries may be making as low as $100 per month and making extra cash on the side from a naïve tourist is a simple way of increasing that minimum wage, or it can be the customs and the characteristics of that specific nation, to be born as scammers – you would laugh, but many people consider Greeks and Turks to be born crooks, but, of course in a nice way. Whatever the situation is, don’t let your guard down and most importantly, learn how to bargain! I promise, it can be a lot of fun, once you get the hang of it.
The first and most vital rule of a good bargain is to know when and where it is acceptable. There are countries, like Germany, where bargaining will raise questions and eyebrows, locals will not understand what is it exactly that you want from them and might even get offended, whereas in most Mediterranean and Asian countries, bargaining is, in fact, customary. You have to learn how to understand also where negotiating a fare is appropriate – for example most restaurants have a set price, so trying to lower down the menu price is almost impossible, whereas when purchasing souvenirs or art, you are almost expected to work out a deal.
The second step to being good at negotiating the price is knowing your limits. Here is a simple example – you would like to buy a sarong in Phuket, and the initial asking price is 700Baht. Immediately you have to make a mental note of the price that you are ready to pay, 500Baht, and would be extremely happy to pay – 400 Baht. The trick here is not to cross their minimum price, which would be somewhere around half of the initial price. By naming your preferred minimum price, you work your way up, a little at a time, say increase your offer by 50 Baht, and see the reaction of the vendor. If you see them reject your price with absolutely no interest in you as a customer, move on- there are other locals who will be happy to continue bargaining.
The last important rule to remember is having an artful trick up your sleeve as well- this could be from telling the merchant that you have 5 friends who are interested in buying that product as well, to threatening them to buy from someone else, to lying and stating that a guy down the street is ready to sell at an X price that you are ready to pay this guy, because you personally like them better. Last, but not least, remember that there is always competition, so – if you are close to the price that you are ready to pay, but they still won’t lower it, pretend to give them one more chance by offering your rate, and then if they don’t succumb, very slowly turn around, put on your most disappointed expression and prepare to leave – this trick works 95% of the time – after 5-10 seconds, they usually agree to your price and you seal the deal.
Paying money for goods and services that you don’t truly know the value of in a foreign country can be as confusing as it is intimidating – who knows, may be the locals get a preferred discounted rate for the same thing. Truth is – they probably do, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t bargain your way for a better price. At the end of the day, even if you don’t get the rate that you want, at least you get a new experience, enjoy it, play with it, push your limits and just have fun, bargaining.