It is no secret that one of my favourite past times when travelling is the deceptively delicate dance of haggling.
There are those who haggle for fun; a jovial jest and parry of words. These individuals are in it for the game; the fun of meeting in the middle and the to and fro’ing for a few bucks. Then, there are those who barter for business. These individuals are the soul crushing, sale savvy savages that will walk away over a cent.
Are you in need of a few tips on how to hammer out a half decent haggle or bust out a ballsy barter? Well… This is for you.
KEY RULES TO BARTERING LIKE A BOSS
Here are some universal rules to keep in mind when starting out in Haggle Town;
- NEVER show how much you like an item unless you are desperate. Once a seller knows how bad you want something, they won’t move on the price they’ve already set.
- 60-70% less the price the seller originally asks for is a good starting point for bartering. Working your way up to 40-50% less their original price is a pretty good benchmark for purchase price.
- Know the currency conversion of your own dollar to the local currency. Converting a purchase back to your own currency allows you to put the pricing into perspective and whether it’s actually a good deal or not.
- Always carry smaller denominations in notes and change – especially in developing countries and when visiting markets if you want to barter. There is nothing ruder than claiming you only have “so much to spend” and then asking the seller to break a much larger denomination. Respect the seller and the price you are asking for by not waving your cash around.
- Don’t be racked with guilt; a seller won’t sell an item at a loss. So if you’ve talked them down 80% off the original price they quoted, then way to go! You haven’t ripped them off, you’ve just taken the price of the item down to what it’s actually worth to them.
- Don’t be a dick. Most places you can barter are developing nations that are extremely poor and are selling a lot of the same goods. Make sure that the difference you are haggling over is worth it. $5 extra might be minimal to you but mean a million to a seller struggling to feed their family. HAVE PERSPECTIVE.
- Good quality items are never “cheap”. If you want something to last and to be authentic, be prepared to pay for it – no matter how superb your skills.
- If you’re not interested, there’s no need to be rude. “No thank you” over and over again will eventually suffice.
HAGGLE LIKE A HERO
When it comes to the bartering like a boss, there are several different techniques adopted. If you find yourself – ironically – a little lost for words when it comes to the all too often in-your-face market place madness, then perhaps the following words will save you a buck or two.
Doe Eyed or DOUGH EYED?
Should you feel competent to feign ignorance (or perhaps it’s legit) in the world of bartering and wish to appeal to a stall owners better nature, you need to be Bambi. We are talking sweet, sweet innocence. You want to inspire that seller to take care of you; you want to be easily flustered, gushing here and there and seriously unsure. Not knowing anything is a sellers dream; they’ll try and take advantage of an ignorant traveller and charge extra. They’ll say it’s good deal; a “special” deal and just for you. Bambi has to get flustered here; the more unsure you are about a purchase, the more they’ll push it; the more they push it, the more flustered you become and the more they’ll knock off the price until lo and behold, you’re nearing a price you like the sound of.
Bambi might help you with a buck (deer me) or two, but it’s not the hard ballers game.
Although not a technical term in the realm of barterdom, “Dismissive Dave” is a technique I usually employ when I like something, but don’t love it. Reason being; Dismissive Dave is a game of bluff; where the loser walks away (the loser being you minus the desired item). Being blasé about an item you wish to purchase can be to your benefit; the seller might throw out a price that is ball park rather than outrageous because they don’t think you’re interested. It is here that a “Dismissive Dave” might counter only once or twice another price (your ideal price) and then make to “move on” – suggesting an indifference to the outcome. Either the seller will run with your laissez faire attitude and meet you at said figure or they’ll call your bluff and you commit to a walk away.
Note. A “Dismissive Dave” has a tendency to burn the old embarrassment flag if you are in fact in love with said item and need to go back to barter further for it – in which case you are at the mercy of the seller because you’ve shown your true feelings.
I have a great love of shoes. In fact, I recently went to Marrakech and walked out of the Medina with 6 pairs of shoes.. I smell genuine leather and all sense leaves me.
Multi-Item Mayhem is sometimes my favourite ploy in a battle of bartering. If I find something I love (shoes), I will whittle down the seller to a price that I am happy to pay and then drop the bombshell that I will purchase however many additional of said item (one in every colour) for an additional amount off. This is a game of ultimatums and the way to win is to tell the seller that you will buy say, all 6 pairs of shoes, for a further discounted price on the price they already gave you (because you’re purchasing so many) or you won’t buy anything at all. This is a goody because the seller runs the risk of losing multiple sales. It’s usually a winner for me but it has backfired on occasion – so be warned.
Meeting a Mountain
It’s a poetic sounding approach but make no mistake, this is played as go hard or go home. Most enjoy a good haggle for the fun of chipping away at a price and meeting somewhere in the middle. The mountain does not meet anyone anywhere. It does not move; it does not budge. In fact, it hardly fits the definition of a barter because it relinquishes nothing. When I am not in the mood to dance about a price point, I lead in with this particular hard-ass haggle. The Mountain is basically; I want this and this is what I will pay. It takes the joy out of a good barter and stall owners may set the eye on you but if you stick to yours guns, you can usually walk away with a good deal. The Mountain is time consuming; because a seller will try and make you move on your price point. It is here you must usually get down to the nitty gritty and fake a walk away to either make or break the deal.
This is for the end of the market day; when you have done laps of lane after lane; nook after cranny and you’re at the end of your linguistic tango tether. Moolah misery is for the item you have spent the whole day thinking about and you’re still deciding whether to go back and get it. It is here you appeal to the seller’s compassion; for you only have (conveniently) so much left in your wallet for this one last item. Funnily enough the amount you have left isn’t as much as the seller is asking but you’re desperate. You want that item so bad and you are dejected as hell when it looks like you can’t have it. You need to own that devastation; open your wallet, show how much you have left. Implore the seller; you came back right? You want this item; you just don’t have the moolah. Most of the time, the seller is just as tired as you are. They’ll take pity and you can finish off the game with a win.
At the end of the day, when walk aways have won and quips have been exchanged back and forth, it’s about experiencing the local culture; having a momento for your journey and the time spent in a new destination but most importantly; having fun.
Here’s to many a future sales salsa; may you now barter like a boss and haggle like a hero.