How to Haggle Like a Pro

Shop on Adrianou Street in Athens' Plaka neighborhood and you're walking on the oldest road in the city. - Photo by eStockPhoto

Unlike in the United States, negotiating prices is a common practice in many countries — particularly in a market setting, where vendors expect counteroffers. In some countries in the Middle East, not haggling is considered to be rude and a sign of arrogance. So whether you’re at the Straw Market in Nassau or the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, remember these nine haggling tips we’ve picked up in our travels:

1. Be a smart shopper.

Traveling to a part of the world that’s known for a certain type of artisanal work (say, rugs in Turkey, black pearls in Tahiti, or antique furniture in China) and expect you’ll want to buy something? Be sure to research prices and learn how to evaluate craftsmanship in advance of your trip. You don’t want to be dependent on the vendor for information on standard pricing and the hallmarks of quality.


2. Dress the part.

Don’t go bargain hunting while wearing your finest jewels and a designer handbag. If you project an image of wealth, the vendor will likely expect you to pay full price. 


3. Pay with cash.

Credit cards mean additional fees for vendors, so they usually prefer dealing in cash. Carry small bills so you can give exact change — vendors will appreciate this and will be more likely to negotiate.


4. Ask a lot of questions.

Be sure to figure out what the item is — including where it’s from, what it’s made of, and how old it is — before you start negotiating. This will indicate that you’re a smart buyer, that you know what you’re looking for, and that you’re serious about the purchase. 


5. Don’t start by pitching a price that’s too low.

Begin your negotiation by saying you’ll pay 60 percent of the quoted price. This is respectful of the skill and hours that went into creating the item, particularly when it’s handmade. Anything less than that amount might be offensive. 


6. Counter respectfully. 

If the vendor counteroffers, and you don’t agree to the suggested price, you’ll need a reason to counter again. Don’t criticize the item, but gently point out any flaws it may have — even something as small as a chip in the paint. If you don’t see any defects at first, scrutinize the item carefully to show the vendor that you know exactly what you’re looking for.

While it’s important to be firm and confident as you negotiate, it’s equally important to remember to say “please” and “thank you,” and never lose your temper.


7. Buy in bulk.

If you’re not happy with the price but the vendor seems firm, consider requesting a bulk deal. You’re much more likely to get a discount if you buy more than one item, so choose additional things and then ask for the best total price. 


8. Don’t appear overzealous.

As soon as the vendor catches the glimmer of excitement in your eyes, he will know he has the upper hand in the negotiation. Be cool — even if you’ve found exactly what you’ve been looking for. Appear to be unsure of how much you like the item.


9. Be prepared to walk away. 

If your negotiation reaches a stalemate and the vendor seems like he’s unwilling to budge, you have to decide if you want to buy the item at the higher price or risk losing it. When you walk away from a negotiation, a vendor will see that she’s about to lose the sale and will often call you back, ceding to the lower price.

There are no guarantees, of course. You may walk away with nothing — or it could be the move that gets you the craft you want at the right price.

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What’s your secret to scoring a bargain?

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