Neither Bell or I are always the most forward people, but when it comes to someone trying to rip us off, I don’t hesitate to proclaim “Hold on a second buddy!” My father is originally from old school Greece (he’s 85 now) and loves to haggle, even when the custom isn’t to do so. When I was a kid, my friend and I were in a major sporting goods store in Orlando looking at golf clubs marked at $600. My Dad grabbed one of the fellow pimply faced teenage employees and offered him $200. There was of course no deal, and I left throughly embarrassed, with my friend both stunned and entertained simultaneously. But suffice to say, I learned a few things to prepare me for travel in countries where haggling is the norm, especially with foreign tourists. So here are tips on haggling abroad, particularly in many countries in Asia and Africa. These tips do not apply in countries like Japan or South Korea, as they are generally not haggling nations!
1) Don’t seem too interested! Don’t be a jerk either, but feign interest. If you absolutely love the item, try and refrain from shouting with glee like a teenager or having an on sight orgasm. I usually act polite and say, “This is pretty nice. It might do. How much?” It might work is a nice start to a good old fashioned haggle down.
2) Be wary of anyone you just met who refers to you as “my friend,” or says “special price just for you!” It is indeed a special price for you, marked 5 times higher. If you can successfully get your item for 5 times less than their initial special price (which you frequently can), congratulations, you’ve earned a top haggler badge!
3) Indecisiveness can be your best friend. Do you really need that Turkish rug? Probably not, but you think it looks nice and would be a wonderful memento of your trip. Ponder it over for a long while if you have time. Some people are naturally indecisiveness about what they want to buy. And guess what? This makes them an awesome haggler, sometimes without them even realizing it.
4) Walk away. Sometimes their “final offer” is not so. Guess how you find out? I’ve been called back many times for my final offer because I walked off. There are also a couple times where I bluffed and the vendor let me leave, because that was indeed their final offer. Guess what I did then? I went back, acknowledged their victory with a smile and paid them their final offer. No vendor has ever then turned my money away.
5) Shop around! If you’re in a bizarre where loads of vendors are selling the same shiny camel trinkets, scarves, shoes, or whatever, check around for price differences (if anything is actually marked). If there are no prices anywhere, as a general rule of thumb, you can probably get the item for 4-5 times less than the “special price.” And if someone tugs at your shirt and calls you their friend, please don’t hesitate to say “hold on a second buddy!”
I want to add that you shouldn’t bilk poor people trying to get by, but folks who start out with outlandish prices are not honest and are treating you simply as a dollar sign, and a dumb one at that. They also send the wrong signal to other locals who are more honest, by making more money than them. And if you ever end up on a day trip in Tangier, Morocco, good luck, normal haggling etiquette does not apply there, and even a master haggler will have their wits tested. Please leave any additional haggling tips you use!