Don’t get ripped off at the market, haggle!

After a years of living in Thailand I have become pro at haggling. Here’s how you can too.

My mother is salesperson’s dream because she gets totally sucked into any sales pitch and buys at the price they set. Once she spent 100GBP on tea in Morocco and another time she spent the same amount on coffee in Bali. There’s me with the family, spending tons of cash at a Moroccan tea stall. Sigh…

I haggle. I have this gorgeous summer dress, which I bought for 200 baht (4GBP) in Chatuchak Market, Bangkok Thailand. I love it because it’s a perfect fit, has lasted years and I bargained the price down from 400 baht! I did have to sing but I’ll do anything and anyway the stallholder thought I was so funny, he agreed to half price lol!

I used to just buy things for the amount on the price tag (that would be my mother’s influence) but truth is, the price tag is a mug’s game. No matter where I go market shopping in the world, I always talk stall holders down to a lower price.┬áNot just because I’m a total cheapskate but because it’s so much fun and I love boasting about my bargains.

I’m always tipping my friends about haggling. These are my most important rules:

Set the price.

I would never in a million years ask as seller what discount I can have. In any negotiating situation one must take charge. Offer a price a little lower than you are willing to pay and then go from there.

How low should you go?

I think it’s best to have an idea what the product is worth because if you go lower than cost-price you can offend or make a seller lose face. I have a rule of about a third off at the beginning of the trading day but towards the end of the day when it’s time to go home, I go even lower.

Get the conversation going.

I have been in situations where I have asked for a lower price and the stallholder shakes their head and then says nothing. What, no negotiation? Don’t assume this. It could be a language barrier problem or lack of negatiation skill. So try saying, ‘I want a good price and I want you to be happy too. What would make you happy?’

Who is in charge here?

On occasion I can’t even get the bargaining going because the seller doesn’t own the stall and will simply say, my boss is not here. DON’T GIVE UP. Ask when the boss will be around. I have even asked very nicely for the seller to ring their boss and ask if they can sell an item to me at my price over the phone. Crazy but in all cases the owner has agreed and I’ve bagged my bargain!

Never ever let anyone know how much money you have.

One thing that drives me mad is when I see someone open their wallet for all to see and then ask about the price. Of course the stallholder is going to give you a high price when they see your wad of cash!

Carry small money denominations and separate them into different pockets.

I never keep all my money in one place because it looks terrible when you bargain a salesperson down to a really cheap price, like 10GBP for example, and then pull out a 50 note or a wad of cash. They will not like you.

Speak the language.

When I learnt how to ask how much, count in Thai and say numbers in the language a whole new lower price level was opened up to me. One reason was because the seller knew I was not a naive tourist and treated me with local prices instead. Another great thing about this was because we spoke in a different language the seller was able to keep the price I bought an item private from tourists, who they sell products to at a much higher price.

Listen carefully.

I never buy first. I always hang back to see what prices other people are buying goods for, and by other people I mean anyone who looks local to the area. They know what they are doing.

Smile and be friendly.

Haggling is fun so treat it that way. Make jokes, laugh and introduce yourself to the seller. They are more likely to offer a bargain to someone who is nice to them. If the negotiation does not go your way, it’s okay, shake hands and say goodbye.

Don’t be afraid to walk away.

I cannot count the amount of times I walked away from a sale only to have the seller chase me down the street begging me to take a product at the discounted price I originally asked for.

Buy more than one thing.

This one gets great results. Pick up a few items of what you want and then ask for your discount. Sellers love to get rid of stock, especially if it’s persihable. Fast arithmetic is needed here.

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