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The best bargaining strategies in 6 easy steps

Bargaining and developing bargaining strategies is the challenge of getting the best price for an item that doesn’t have a fixed price and even on some occasions when there is a defined cost.

The best bargaining strategies will ensure best results and a more enjoyable experience. Some love taking on the challenge while others hate it and see it as a hassle, or confrontational. At some point during travels though, bargaining will be a necessary and even an expected necessity. Often traders give great disrespect to people who do not engage in bargaining and pay what has been initially quoted.

market stall

1. Firstly know approximately how much something should cost before you head out

Before you ever go shopping, or before you purchase anything in particular high value goods to take home, it’s your responsibility to know how much something
should cost in order not to get ripped off. It’s wise to know what average prices are for what you want to buy depending on what country you’re in.

Guide books, blogs, and travel websites are all good places to do a little shopping research to see about how much a nik nak should cost in Thailand or the
going rate for a carpet at in a middle eastern bazaar.

2. Shop around

If you have the time and making a saving is worthwhile then shop around. Ask many different sellers for their lowest possible cost and then move on quickly before spending too much time haggling. This will give you a good idea of an approximate price or at the very least any seller that has vastly over quoted. Simple and perhaps obvious bargaining strategies like these will ensure success.

Often the act of walking away (see below) will ensure that you secure a good initial price, which can then be compared with other stalls or dealers.

haggling in Brick lane

3. Pay attention to what others are paying before you commit to a purchase

This is not always possible, but if there happens to be someone who purchases something ahead of you or if you just observe someone purchasing something at
another stall (roughly the same thing), pay attention to how much they pay. This becomes easier over time as you get used to the prices in the country you
are visiting. This not only goes for souvenirs, but also for food and non-negotiable items as well, especially when there’s no written price anywhere. In many countries like India and many Asian countries bargaining is always possible.

4. Bargain with a smile and good attitude

In general people around the world, though sometimes pushy or aggressive, underneath it all tend to be friendly and kind. This is especially true when faced
with other good people. Always approach the situation and haggle with a smile on your face plus a positive attitude. Not only is this more respectful, but it turns the experience into something more fun. In our experience you’re likely to get a better deal as most market sellers expect and actually enjoy bargaining themselves!

We’ve seen people get annoyed when haggling but this doesn’t lower the price nor does it help either side coming to an agreement. Battering people down on a sale by shouting or aggression leaves people with a bad taste in their mouth about visitors and will often cause the seller to shut down, rather than want to engage with you.  You don’t ever want your bargaining strategies to actually cause offense or lead to a negative situation. That is not the idea of haggling at all.

5. Start low and work up to a compromise

In your head, come up with a price that you would be willing to pay, and then state about 40 – 60 percent as your initial offer. The seller will counter with their offer, then you’ll have to raise your offer, then the seller will slightly lower their offer again, and so on.

If you reach the price you had in your head, that’s great- gor for it!

If the seller won’t go that low, you either have to determine if the vendor honestly looks as though they won’t be able to make enough profit (in which case you may have to change your initial price thought), or if they’re trying a sales technique.

One thing I discourage is bargaining until it really looks like the vendor is not receiving hardly any money from the deal– it’s their business and means of income so they really do need to make a profit. Ethical buying is as part of a sale as ethical selling.

6. Say no thank you… and walk away

If the vendor doesn’t agree to sell, you can either raise the amount you’re willing to pay, or say no thanks and walk away without feeling guilty. Generally a vendor will wait a few seconds and call you back to take your money, or if not, you can probably assume your price was just too low and that the deal wasn’t fair anyway.

In the end when you bargain remember that the most important thing is whether what you have bought is worth it or not? Is haggling over a small discount going to hurt you more, or the vendor?

Armed with a little local knowledge and a positive mentality, bargaining is a fun way to get great deals and maybe even build some relationships while you travel and shop. It is part of the much wider picture of understanding what makes people around the world tick and seeing how people from different countries sell is fascinating. So make sure you get involved!

What are your bargaining strategies?  We would love to hear about them in the comments box 🙂

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Alistair Williams

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