5 TIPS FOR THE RELUCTANT HAGGLER
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
When my I visited Marrakech with my friend last September, the first thing we did when we arrived at our riad was dump our bags and head out to the Jemaa el Fna to orient ourselves and start exploring. I love market shopping, but haggling is something that mortifies me. Confrontation makes me squirm and up until the age of 16, I was painfully shy and would rather buy two similar products than ask a shop assistant which one they would recommend. I've written before about choosing memorable souvenirs and I thought I would share a few tips about how to haggle without feeling bad about it.
1. SCOUT - think about what you want to buy and ask the price of it at a few different market stalls; your hotel might even be able to offer you a rough guide of what you can expect to pay for things. In Marrakech, our riad manager told us to offer a quarter of the seller's price. I was too mortified to suggest such a measly amount to any of the stall holders, but the idea is that if you want to pay around half (which is a fair price), you have to start off really low. I didn't believe the manager, until we found a pottery store that prohibited haggling, where the prices were around 1/3 of those in the main market.
2. BROWSE - when you're approaching a large market, don't buy from the first shop you see. You will often find that things are half the price when you meander deeper through the stalls, and that sellers are willing to lower their price for you on top of that. That being said, if you find a good price that you are happy to pay - take it! A scarf merchant in Marrakech offered me a low price, but when I returned the next day he had more than doubled it and laughed in my face when I reminded him what he had suggested the day before.
3. TIMING - in many parts of Asia, stallholders believe that it's bad luck not to make the first sale of the day. If you visit the markets early in the morning, offer a price you think is fair and that you are happy to pay. More often than not, they will take it in the hope of good luck for the rest of the day - this isn't an excuse to take advantage though!
4. CONVERT - think about how much you are spending in your own currency. When I was in Cambodia, a market seller was trying to sell me a pair of cotton trousers for more than they would cost at a cheap shop in England. Conversely, when you are arguing over a matter of pennies, it's worth giving in for the sake of a happy stall holder and an intact conscience.
5. BUY TWO - my favourite way of haggling is to buy two or three of something. Obviously this only works if you want a few, or if you can gift the extras, but it takes the awkwardness out of offering a meagre price. When I bought blankets in Siem Reap, I offered to buy two for $50, when the girl wanted to sell one to me for $35.
I hope these tips might be helpful for the reluctant haggler - I'm by no means an expert, but I find it helpful to shop abroad with these things in mind.