Saturday, 28 December 2013

The not so ultimate guide to haggling in Asia

Street vendors haggling in China

Whether you are in an Istanbul Bazaar or exploring a Chinese souvenir shop, or maybe talking to an Indian peddlar, you have to get the knack of negotiation. A bit of psychology, a bit of knowledge, a bit of you own style and you are there. You are perfectly aware of the fact that the Asian seller knows your weaknesses and fears, aren’t you? So, show them you are not a naive foreigner.

Preliminary actions:

Nothing helps more than the good old investigation. Compare the prices here and there, don’t rush and take your time. By doing this, you may spot where the locals go. This may ring the bell – they know what they are doing, after all. Needless to say, you wallet should not be full - as if you did not have the intention of buying expensive stuff. I cannot overemphasize the impact you would have if you learned a few phrases beforehand. The minimum arsenal of numbers, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, ‘too expensive’,’ I won’t buy it’,’ How much?’, can save you some cash. As a rule of thumb, keep your eyes open and your pocket tightly closed.

Main Strategies:

  • Walk away: It goes like this. After a couple of minutes, you realise the seller is a tough guy. Nothing to lose so wave your hand and step away. I promise you, in most cases, you will hear their favourable bid.
  • Play hardcore: Sometimes the seller will try to persuade you they have a big family to take care of or that he/she is running the stall at a loss. “Show no mercy” is your motto, don’t be fooled.  
  • Cut the head off: It is a term, which in China is attributed to highly - inflated prices. Why not use the same weapon on them? It is not uncommon to hear from a shop owner a price lowered 8 times. The typical situation is you think the piece of cloth is not worth that huge amount of money, so you offer to buy it for half its value.   
  • Fake interest: I know you quite liked this bracelet but don’t go straight. Disorient the enemy by pretending you are interested in the necklace over there. Then put on your disappointed face and ask for your object of interest, carelessly. The chances are you will hear a reasonable quote.
  • Time factor: You are not in a hurry, have a look around and tell the seller you will definitely return after a while.
  • Two for one: The scenario goes like this.You want to buy for your better half, let’s say, a piece of jade jewellery.  With this technique, you combine it together with a different product and insist you get a discount.
  • Chinese friends: If you are not into the art of haggling, just ask your local friends to do it for you.  It can be tricky, though.

              General Considerations:

 Big outlets or shopping malls don’t negotiate the cost of the products. This is not valid for open markets, street vendors and souvenir shops close to the famous tourist attractions! Don’t use gestures for numbers unless you learn the Chinese system, because it is completely different. Practice makes perfect.


For the majority of Asian nations, it is a tradition to bargain. Don’t stay aloof, have a go and impress your fellow travellers!

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