How to Bargain in Foreign Ports

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013

Shopping! Don't we all love it? Well, maybe some of us love it more than others, ummm -- actually the fair sex seems to love it way more than I do, but that's ok, vive le difference! I believe we should all do as much shopping as we want because according to "Mars and Venus in the Bedroom," for women it's an aphrodisiac (I kid you not!).

My companion looks at shopping in foreign ports as her personal quest for treasure to carry back to her beloved home land. Like the brilliant conquerer she is, she has an inborn skill for finding the perfect artifact to rekindle the memories of each of our travel experiences.

So, how do you bargain? Bargaining is actually the custom in many countries, it is expected as the normal way of doing business. But many "Americans" are unaccustomed to the practice and find it very intimidating. Of course, the shopkeepers in many of these lands know this, and they have found ways to play upon the guilt that we Americans often associate with saying "No."

But saying "No" is exactly what we need to do! When a shopkeeper sees you are interested in something he becomes predatory, and there is nothing he wants more than for you to ask him the price. Do not be afraid! Price tags are a rarity in foreign ports because they want to start a dialog with you. Play it cool and act disinterested in the piece even if you love it. Don't start gushing that you have to have it or you'll die!

When you ask the price expect to hear something too expensive for words. Don't be alarmed, it is only the shopkeeper's first serve. What should you do? You could begin the bargaining process then and there, but please don't. The thing to do is to walk away. That shopkeeper believes you will never return if you leave his store and he will do anything to make you stay.

Typically he will shout to your back as you head towards the door, "How much do you want to pay?" The next move is as predictable as an old movie. Act disinterested and offer him a ridiculously low price. Make it lower than you would ever expect him to accept, sometimes they actually do accept it. Never ever tell them the truth! In these countries entering the bargaining ritual is a sign of commitment and honor, and if you offer a price that they accept they expect you to live up to your word.

The shopkeeper will shake his head and grin sardonically at your offer, trying to make you feel like an exploitative tourist from a rich country. So maybe there is a grain of truth to that, but that doesn't mean they aren't manipulating us! Once again -- walk away. Borrow from a local custom and shake your hands in the air as you do so, you did your best, so what do they expect?

Don't worry, he will stop you again. This is the point where he will make his first realistic offer. If you still think the price is too high then reciprocate with your final counter offer and see if he budges. Make it just a hare's breath higher than your original offer and gauge his reaction. You want him to think you believe your offer is a fair one. Depending on his counteroffer you will have a good idea of how low he is going to go. Remember, the goal in bargaining is not to get the lowest possible price, it is to pay a price you feel comfortable with. If you feel comfortable with a ridiculously low price then that is what you should stick with. If he matches your offer you must take the goods, if he does not at least you know his bottom line.

Since he has made the final offer, at this point you can accept the offer, but you still have the power to decline. If you do not want the piece then simply walk away. If you love it but the price wasn't right you can always come back and present your offer again. There is a good chance he has been thinking about it and this time will choose to accept it. Or you can walk around and think about his offer and maybe choose to come up a bit. There is rarely any harm done in waiting. In fact, it is often the best idea. Some people get so caught up in the act of bargaining they feel compelled to buy even if the don't really want the item. There is also the chance you may walk around the corner and find it even cheaper. But on the other hand, I also believe that if you see something you love and it makes you feel fantastic then a vacation is not the time to be parsimonious. Buy the memory and cherish it for the rest of your life.

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