Bargaining is common in the Third World and in some parts of Europe. Although restaurant prices are usually fixed, you can bargain for goods and services including hotels, transportation, guides and souvenirs. Some people don't like bargaining because they feel they might be cheating the merchant. Don't worry. Merchants have an edge in bargaining because they know their costs. No shopkeeper will close a sale unless it's profitable, so don't hesitate to do your best bargaining.
When something catches your eye, check out other shops. Items can vary in quality, style and how much the merchant thinks they're worth.
Tourists almost always pay more than locals for the same goods and services. As an outsider, merchants perceive you as wealthy compared to the local population, whether it's true or not. However, you can gain a bargaining edge by learning how much the locals pay. Although you probably won't get the same price, it's a good starting point.
Regardless of the price tag, first decide how much a potential purchase is worth to you. Do you really want to carry it on the rest of your trip? Is it worth the extra cost to ship home? That piece of artwork may be a bargain at a market, but consider how much it will cost you to frame it later.
Merchants are bargaining pros. When bargaining, you'll both be following a script, each trying to get the best deal from the other. It's a game you both can win when settling on a price that's seen as a good deal on both sides.
Even if you feel you must have the item you're bargaining for, don't let the merchant know! Point out flaws, mention reasons why the item isn't right for you or talk about similar items another merchant sells.
Let the merchant make the first offer, which can be inflated anywhere from two to 10 times above an acceptable sales price. With this in mind, you can then counter-offer by suggesting a price you might be willing to pay. Remember, the merchant is following a script just like you. He or she might feign shock or insult at your counteroffer as part of the bargaining process.
If you're not satisfied with how the bargaining is going, tell the merchant you want to look around some more. You may find he or she is suddenly willing to drop the price rather than lose a potential customer.
To get around an impasse in the bargaining process, ask for an additional item to be included for free. If you're eyeing several items, ask for an additional discount.
Sometimes bargaining doesn't go the way you want. If your heart is set on an item, it's sometimes better to pay a little extra rather than walk away from something you really want and regret it later. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!
Even when pointing out flaws in an item as part of your bargaining strategy, avoid implying the merchant is selling something worthless.
If you feel a merchant is pressing too hard, you're free to go to another shop. You're not obligated to buy if you initiate some preliminary bargaining. However, if a merchant accepts your offer, you should make a purchase.
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: Tue Aug 14 13:23:34 PDT 2012
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