If you want to be kind to yourself don’t get too carried away with bargaining. After all, you’re wealthy compared to most people you’ll be bargaining with. Fellow travellers will regularly ask if you got a good price for something you are showing them. What’s a good price? I aim to get a reasonable price but not necessarily the cheapest one. That way I leave the country feeling good about myself and the experience.
That being said, in many parts of the world bargaining is expected, and it’s almost a contest to see who is best at it. In India, the locals never seemed concerned about my safety—they just wanted to know if I had gotten a good price: “How much did you pay for that? Too much, too much…” Obviously I’m not a bargaining enthusiast but this is generally how the dance goes:
Potential buyer: “How much.”
Potential seller: Gives inflated price followed by “Good price!”
Potential buyer: “Hmm…” and looks away.
Potential seller: “How much you want to pay?”
Potential buyer: “I have to think about it.” Or “I want to look around.”
That’s when the bargaining starts. At this stage I sometimes look the seller in the eyes and say, “Give me a fair price.” If the price offered seems reasonable and I want what is being sold then I often accept the price without further discussion. If I don’t want it I walk away (and the seller often chases me and offers it for half the price).
It is considered very bad manners to have your offer accepted and then change your mind.
Now there is bargaining and there is bargaining! And bargaining for a carpet in India or Morocco or Iran as I have done is not the same as bargaining for a trinket in those countries. And the experience can leave you with a bad feeling for the country along with a dose of self-loathing.
Carpet sellers are professionals like you’ve never seen. They’ll offer you tea and then unfold what will seem like hundreds of carpets in front of you and you’ll start to feel you should buy something simply because of all the effort. Ignore such feelings. Ignore the saying that you bargain until you pay half the initial asking price. What if the asking price is ridiculously high?
To this day I shake my head with disgust when I think of what I paid for cheap scarves in India—five times the price in a high pressured show room as in the market stall. Bring a calculator and know the price in your currency. Commit to nothing until you’re ready. Don’t be pressured. It’s okay to walk away when the tactics seem unworthy of you.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2010