Updated September 30, 2016
Lest you be taken for a rube, know that bartering is almost expected in many marketplaces around the world. It’s also the reason why prices seem so high at first glance.
The prevailing wisdom is that if you’re willing the pay the asking price, you deserve to pay too much.There are a few rules of thumb for how to barter if you’re interested in shopping like a seasoned traveler. Here are our best bartering tips:
1. Set your ceiling and stick with it
Once you go above that, it’s a slippery slope to full price.
2. Know your product
It’s hard to set a realistic price goal if you don’t know the item’s true value. If you know what you want, do a little research before you get there, or check around in various shops for similar items. For example, carpets in Turkey worth researching before you ever walk into a rug-seller’s shop. Prices vary wildly.
3. Be willing to walk away
Chances are you can live without that camel-skin wallet. If the seller isn’t budging on the price, turn and head out the door, they may even shout that perfect final offer before you’re gone for good. If he doesn’t deal and the item just won’t stop nagging at you, you can always go back and pick up where you left off.
4. Buy from a smaller shop
Large operations usually equal immovable proprietors. A little shop may offer a unique cultural experience and perhaps a better deal too.
5. Double up
You may be able to get that discount if you buy more than one item from the same shop. Buy more and sellers should be willing to come down, if only to get rid of more of their stock .
6. Be reasonable
It’s okay not to get the rock bottom deal you wanted. Plus, the extra few dollars you’re spending will likely be worth more to the seller than they are to you.
7. Don’t push it
In some countries, vendors are less interested in the haggle. In general, shop owners are less likely to be bartered down than sellers in market booths. If the proprietor isn’t budging, remember the Golden Rule and don’t be a jerk. This is another human being, and this is their living to make as they see fit.
Bartering can be an exhausting proposition, especially if you’ve been at it all day. But don’t give in. It’s satisfying to get what you think is a great deal, even if the price on your 50%-off piece was marked up 200%.
Locals in many destinations (Morocco and India come to mind) definitely expect bartering to take place and most likely enjoy it, even if you don’t. Chances are they’re much better at it than you are. But at the end of the day, bartering is a chance to communicate with a local for an authentic cultural experience –free with purchase.