How to negotiate while traveling

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If the thought of haggling over that exquisite silk pashmina you picked up in a Delhi bazaar makes you a little uneasy, you’re not alone. While most consumers aren’t shy about comparing prices between retailers for the lowest price, many travellers, myself included, aren’t comfortable playing the game of face-to-face negotiation. .

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But if you like to shop and want to take home a treasured souvenir, you may need to learn how. In many countries of Latin America and the Middle East, negotiation is expected; in some cultures, like Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and India, it’s downright disrespectful not to negotiate, says Nikki Webster, owner of the Brit on the Move website.

Getting it right takes planning, practice, and patience. You want to avoid a faux pas like haggling in a Paris boutique, which will likely get you fired right away. Here are some tips for trading like a pro.

Know where negotiation is appropriate. In Laos and Mexico, yes. In Japan and Sweden, this is not the case. In the Middle East, haggling is such a part of the culture that it can be exhausting. It is easy to quickly research whether haggling is a practice or not in a specific country. Even in countries where haggling is the norm, don’t expect to do so in supermarkets, shopping malls or fixed-price brand stores. “You don’t negotiate a steak or eggs by the case in Morocco,” says Salvador Ordorica, managing director of Spanish Group, an online document translation service. Expect to bargain at markets, bazaars, and independent artisan shops.

Find out. If you have a purchase in mind, get an idea of ​​what people are paying for that item before you leave home. It gives you a frame of reference, says Jeff Moriarty, who has traveled to more than 35 countries over the past 10 years as marketing director for Moriarty’s Gem Art. Review Tripadvisor reviews, search online for “product + country” or, for example, type in a search bar: “What do I pay for a genuine leather bag in Bali? » You can also consult travel groups and private forums online.

Research the major markets in a city. Find out what each specializes in. Once you’ve done this, write down any “special” or “main” days, such as the first of the month or Sunday. These days are usually when you’ll find the best deals, Moriarty says.

Set a budget. You could set a gambling budget for a Las Vegas getaway; do the same for international shopping, says Miami-based Maria Dominguez, a shopaholic who retired from British Airways after 43 years. Bargaining can be addictive.

Learn to negotiate. Webster says the key to successful haggling is understanding the process. The line is, “Tell me your best price”; then you start, she said. “And you have to be brave enough to counter a stupid, inflated offer of $60 for an item worth $20 with an offer of $10. In other words, your first counteroffer must be less than that. what it is worth or what you are willing to pay, so that there is room to haggle until the price you will pay.

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Don’t buy on day 1 or 2. Instead, scour markets and stalls for a baseline by casually inquiring about items and prices. Or, if a market has a mix of stores, start by checking one with fixed prices. This gives you an idea of ​​the value of the items before you start trading. “In Bali, I was looking for a traditional silver harmony ball necklace,” says Webster. “Initially, I was going from place to place asking the price and walking away without committing. The range was from $10 to $30 US. Then I found someone who started at $15. I countered with $4. We both agreed that the other was ridiculous, so we started again. He offered $9. I ended up paying $7.

A little cultural sensitivity goes a long way. Learn a few words or phrases — hello, please, thank you — in the local language. “Always greet the seller in their own language,” says Ordorica. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect, they’ll recognize the effort. Also show interest and curiosity in their culture.

Cash is king. Exchange dollars for local currency and always use cash in a market. Carry small bills. This helps you avoid the trick that the seller has no change. Check the current conversion rate (use the XE Currency or My Currency Converter apps) to find out how much an item costs in US dollars. Credit cards are prohibited unless it is an expensive item in an established store. If you’re comfortable with your credit card, you’ll probably be asked if you want to pay in dollars or the local currency. Ordorica says to choose the latter. “By paying in local currency, your bank sets the conversion rate, not the merchant, which is almost always the best rate.”

dress up. “Leave the bling behind. As soon as you ask how much, the merchant is going to look at you and then set a price,” says Sharon Geltner, general manager of Froogle PR in Palm Beach, Florida, who does a lot of shopping in the Caribbean, Middle East and Mexico. .

Show respect. Yes, haggling is a game, but it’s not poker. You’re not bluffing, and it’s inappropriate to say you’ll accept a price and then walk away. “Ultimately it’s your choice, but out of courtesy, if they agree to your final price, you should buy it,” says Dominguez. And be reasonable. Don’t be afraid to bargain when appropriate, but don’t bargain for a $3 scarf. If something is cheap, don’t squeal the seller for pennies.

Be aware of body language. “You can tell if a person is not receptive to negotiation if they cross their arms, turn away, or raise their eyebrows. Either change your approach or consider it a loss and walk away,” says Ordorica.

Calm your enthusiasm. You cannot show any emotional connection to the item you want. “If they sense you’ve fallen in love with a specific piece, they’ll quickly wonder why this one is the most expensive,” Webster says.

Use multiples as a negotiating tool. You can get a bigger discount if you buy two or three items from the same seller. Webster used this technique to buy several hookahs in Dubai. “I visited a traditional grocery store and saw that I could buy them for $20 each,” she says. “Then I went to the market, and when I found some that caught my eye, I haggled with a vendor and left three times. In the end, I paid $15 each for three.

Go away. This may be the toughest tactic, but it’s the most important, trading experts agree. Geltner advises to use it if you are trying to find out if the trader has reached his lowest price or to end trading. “Politely say ‘Thank you’ and walk out of the store. This is crucial. No matter how much you want a given item, always be ready to leave. If the owner waves you back, turn around dubiously and step back Take a few steps slowly to see if he’s serious. If she’s still not ready to make a deal, leave again. If she follows you and says, “I agree,” that means the deal has been made. Hit!”

Daily is a Denver-based writer. His website is

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