In most Asian countries, there are multiple tourist spots where the vendors expect you to haggle because they know that you know that everything is marked up. Though knowing to bargain and actually negotiating are two very different animals. There’s an art to bargaining that’s as much best practice as it is following your gut instincts.
That’s because getting down to a price where both parties are cool with is the game, but bargaining in Asia has a lot of nuances.
Did the Vendor Come Down on the Initial Price Quickly?
The sooner and bigger that the vendor comes down means you’re just starting your #bestprice journey. Most areas in which you are expected to haggle prices, you can usually gauge where the approximate number will ultimately land by how quickly the vendor lowers their price from the initial interaction.
Some vendors just want to make the sale and these are the ones you can haggle down the price the fastest, but they’re also often the vendors that get annoyed the most, so be friendly and aware of where that line is. Your goal should not only walk away with the item you want at a price you’re comfortable with but also one where the vendor is also smiling afterwards. This isn’t a one sided deal if all things are done right.
Bargaining with Professionals Vendors
Then there are the vendors that know how to play the game. They smile, joke with you, and are willing to negotiate the price. Some are genuine in having fun while selling their wares, others are playing the game. Whatever the case, these experienced vendors not only have the wherewithal but enjoy the chase.
With these street or market vendors, you’ll have to work a little harder, but these are the bargains that you can be most proud of. We’ll go over a few of these vendors’ tactics to ensure you know what’s going down and don’t lose your focus.
- The Stonewall: The most astute vendors wont budge until you’ve suggested a lower price three times.
- Turning the Tables: They’ll also turn the tables on you by asking you what you’re willing to pay.
- Best Price Best Price: These experts will tell you the first price quoted was and is the best price,
- Already Discounted: These vendors will tell you (and show you on a calculator) that the price you’re getting is already discounted from the much higher retail price
- Won’t Haggle: The most experienced will pretend you’re wasting their time and move onto something else. Sometimes they believe that, most times they don’t.
The number of haggling gurus depend on the place like how long that city has been a tourist destination. If you’re in Bangkok, Manila, Mumbai or Shanghai, you’ll be working against some experts.
The duration that an area, a neighborhood, a city, or country has been a destination also determines how much an item is marked up and how advanced some vendors can be.
Both Sides Should Be Happy
Understanding the landscape and a few other items increases your success rate of bargaining an item you covet to a number you’re willing to pay Some of those items to keep in mind when negotiating in Asia are:to be nice
- Don’t Be Insulting: Don’t insult vendors with a disrespectful low ball.
- Know Your Number: know what you’re willing to pay at high end and low end.
- Walk Away Price: Know what price you’re willing to walk away from.
- Not About How Much: Not only about saving a couple USD.
- Don’t Hate the Player: Don’t take anything personal, it’s just how it is.
- Play the Game: the vendors are tossing you a ball full-on expecting you to swing.
Bargaining, haggling and negotiating is like any art form or skill, the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be and better at it you’ll become. If you visit Asia enough and visit street markets or touristy areas, you’ll be able to get a sense of whether you’re improving. The best way to tell if you’re getting better a haggling is how long you can talk with the vendor where both of you are still smiling and engaged with one another.
For example, in Shanghai, I negotiated with a market vendor for approximately 25 minutes on three backpacks (one for me, one for my partner, one for my friend). She wouldn’t budge after about 10 minutes and stopped negotiations; walking next to her vendor friend to look at videos on their phone — ignoring me. Still, I persisted, made jokes, and continued to work on them. Ultimately, I got them to budge a little and lower their price if we agreed to take a photo with some of their product — we assumed for some form of advertisement or marketing.
Whatever the case, we all walked away happy with the experience. Me with a price within the range I set in my head and the vendors were smiling not just from making a little money, but sincerely enjoying the process.