Whether you’re scrounging around the local flea markets or hunting for treasures in bazaars of the world, you can strike a great deal if you know how to play the game. Hone your skills with these ten tips from the Fearless Shopper:
1. Relax and have fun. It’s a game not a confrontation.
2. Comparison shop. Know the relative value of an item. Before haggling, get the feel of the market. See what the locals are buying and paying.
3. Before you bargain for anything, decide “What is this worth to me?” “What is the most I am willing to pay?” Then ask the price. That way you’ll know how much bargaining room you have.
4. If a merchant asks an absurd price, offer an equally ridiculous low price. You’ll probably meet somewhere in the middle. But if you start in the middle, you’ll have less room to maneuver and you’ll pay more than you should.
5. Dress the part. Don’t traipse through the souks in your finery if you want a good price.
6. Learn numbers in other languages. Carry a calculator or a currency exchange cheat sheet. Believe me, even if you’re great at math, market merchants have been in the game for much longer than you have.
7. It never hurts to make an offer. All anyone can ever do is say no.
8. Carry cash and pull out just what you are willing to part with. The sight of real money is a powerful inducement for the vendor to close the sale. In foreign countries, often pulling out dollars in a lesser amount will be acceptable. But in any currency, pull out less cash than asked for and try saying, “This is all I have on me. Will you take it?”
9. Save ruthless bargaining for the merchants, but bargain with compassion with an artist or craftsperson.
10. In bargaining like life, often you get what you want if you truly don’t care. So, be ready to walk away. On the other hand, don’t leave behind something you absolutely must have.