Tuesday, February 9, 2010

1 Travel Tip Tuesday: Negotiating

Food, water, clothes, taxis: in much of the world, the price of most everyday items is entirely negotiable. In fact one of the things we most looked forward to in coming home was price tags! Negotiating can be exhausting, but once you get the hang of it, it can be fun, too. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when traveling to destinations where getting a good price is a matter of pride:

  • Get a sense of the market. In Turkey the prices were typically marked up 25%, in Southeast Asia they would ask for 75% more than what the item was worth. Take some time to shop around and find out what the average asking price is. In the most ideal circumstances, do some research (check online travel forums, ask other tourists) to learn what the real value of the goods are in the economy in which you are buying. I was shopping for a shirt in Kuala Lumpur and offered a saleswoman half of what she originally asked. When she jumped and agreed to that price immediately, I knew I had overestimated the real cost and was overpaying.
  • Get the seller to name the first price, and then start lowballing. Once you decide on your target price, offer an amount lower than that in the equal proportion to what the seller asked above your goal. Ideally you will inch your way down and up accordingly to reach what you want to pay.
  • Be patient. As uncomfortable as it can be for those unaccustomed to negotiating, this is the dance that makes many countries' economies run. There are all sorts of regional peculiarities that can be disconcerting--like how the Vietnamese laugh in your face at whatever price you offer as if it is the most ridiculous, impossible thing they've ever heard--but don't lose your cool. If you maintain calm, confident, and show that you have no emotional attachment to buying this item, you will be much more successful.
  • Don't be afraid to walk away. One of our favorite tactics was once we'd engaged in negotiations for a bit and the seller was being stubborn and not going any lower, we simply shook our heads and walked away. Nine times out of ten, the person chased us down and agreed to the last price we offered. Remember that in most cases the seller has a much more dire need to make the sale than you have to buy.
It's always frustrating to feel like you are getting ripped off, and seeing locals pay half of what you so exhaustingly won can be discouraging. But keep in mind that while you may be loathe to pay the extra tourist charge, sellers may on principle refuse to sell to you for the local price. We got caught in one such stalemate in India, when rickshaw drivers refused to drop their price below 50 rupees, when we knew locals were paying 10 or 20. But when we stopped for a reality check we realized that the 30 rupee discrepancy did not amount to even a dollar back home, and those extra few cents meant a whole lot more to the driver than to us.

1 comment:

  1. Just found your blog and I am loving it. Fun and sweet, with a dash of helpful info... Thank you and happy travels!



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