Hey Mommysavers – do you know how to bargain shop? Do you know how to bargain when you shop? I pick and chose which stores I go to, because I much prefer fixed prices. But, in India I still have to bargain over many things. Rides in an auto-rickshaw. Prices at smaller stores, and vegetable markets. Nearly everything touristy. If you can’t find a price posted anywhere (and often even if you can), then it’s up for haggling.
Have you ever visited somewhere that bargaining was expected? Were you any good at it?
My first experience with bargaining was when I lived in Romania. I went to a bazaar, and probably paid the asking price for everything. We tried a bit of it in Mexico as well, but I still wasn’t a very good haggler.
Now I am getting pretty good. I’ve learned a few tips, from Indian friends, and knowledgeable foreigners (this kind of knowledge comes from experience). If you ever need to bargain a price, here are some tips to consider:
- Know what you’re willing to pay. This is the most important tip. If you know how much you’re willing to pay, it won’t matter if you’ve paid more than someone else. You won’t pay more than it’s worth to you.
- Try to find out about how much it should cost. Discreetly check for a price tag, or do research ahead of time.
- Try to find out about how much it should cost a native. Ask your friends, or if you see someone with the item you want, ask what they paid for it.
- When it comes to actual bargaining, ask how much the item costs. Weigh this against what you’re willing to pay. My sister commented that often she was so surprised that the asking price was less than she expected that she just paid it.
- A standard starting price for a white person buying a touristy souvenir in India is 3 times how much an Indian would pay. You’re going to pay more than an Indian no matter what, so offer half of the asking price.
- Continue to negotiate until an agreement is reached. Don’t go above the price you’re willing to pay.
- If you want more than one of an item you can offer to buy two at a reduced price.
- Walking away is a valid negotiating technique. Even if you really are intended to walk away, chances are lower prices will be hollered at you as you leave.
- It’s pretty unlikely you’re buying a unique souvenir. Most shops sell the exact same stuff, so if you find someone unwilling to negotiate, or trying to charge you more than you’re willing to pay, move on.
- You can always come back if you can’t find an item at a lower price.
A Tale of Two Autos
We first saw one of these cute little auto-rickshaw toys in a market outside Mysore Palace – the second most visited tourist attraction in India. We have two young children who both love to play with cars and ride in autos, so I asked how much it was. Rs. 200 ($4). Yikes. $4 for a piece of made in China junk? No, thanks. We kept walking. The salesman followed us all the way through the market calling out lower prices as he went. By the time we got to the parking lot he’d talking himself down to 90 rupees, so I turned around and offered 50 and ended up paying 70.
When we got to the car, the kids were already fighting over their new toy as they showed it to the driver. He asked how much we paid for it. (I hate when Indians ask how much I paid for something because my answer is always followed by an eyeroll and tsking.) So we asked him how much he would have paid for it. “20 rupees,” he answered. We told him how much we’d paid and sent him back to the market to buy another one. We gave him 50 rupees and told him he could keep the change if he got it for less. He spent 40 rupees and got us another autorickshaw. Somehow, even though we have two, the kids still fight over them.