Indians have a reputation for being some of the world’s best negotiators. Spend some time here and it won’t take you long to find out why. The price for anything; clothing, fabric, spices, tea, jewellery, taxi rides, and sometimes even hotel rooms, are all up for negotiation. If you want the best deal you must be willing to haggle. Quite frankly, if you’re comfortable pushing for a hard bargain, there is every chance you’ll walk away with a smile on your face.
Playing the game
For those of us who haven’t grown up haggling, it’s a hard game to play. Haggling makes me personally feel uneasy. We’ve never had to do it before, and there is a bit of a ritual around how it works. Also, it’s a slow process – you can’t buy on impulse around here!
We also know that we’re haggling over what might be a small amount of cash for us but could be the next meal for that vendor. Despite this it’s important to remember that no vendor is going to sell for a loss. Keeping that in mind is an important step in mentally preparing for a purchase.
Practice makes perfect
Here are 4 things we’ve been practicing when trying to haggle and some thoughts on why we still haven’t quite perfected it yet:
- Act a bit disinterested in the item you’re looking to buy and don’t buy generic items from the first place you see them. In large markets you can almost always find more than 2 sellers selling the same items, so always look around first.
Why haven’t we nailed the ‘meh’? It’s hard not to get excited when you see the perfect thing, or when you’re buying to solve a real problem, like your jandles breaking and you turning up with broken jandles and bare feet…. but we are also having to be extremely cautious about adding more to our backpacks, so we really could ‘take or leave’ anything we see.
- Whatever the seller offers an item for, tell them it’s too high and ask for their best price. This will usually see a small reduction before you make a counter offer and the negotiations begin.
Why haven’t we nailed “too high!”? It feels weird acting openly shocked and offended by a price even if it actually doesn’t seem too high. That said, we are on a budget. We genuinely have been surprised by the cost of some items.
- Make your counter offer less than you are willing to pay. That way you can effectively meet in the middle as the negotiation goes on.
Why haven’t we nailed the counteroffer? It feels cheeky and we don’t want to offend. We’re learning, however, that on offer of 500 could be met with a counter of 150, and an offer of 1000 could be met with a counteroffer of 400.
- Just say no. If you’re not into it, just walk away. If the seller is keen, he may offer you a final lower price which you can accept or decline. It’s OK if you walk away as long as you haven’t come to an agreement. The seller will have an answer to every reason you don’t want to go ahead, so be prepared to hear it, but don’t feel obliged to agree.
Why haven’t we nailed just walking away? It’s hard to do, especially once you’ve invested some time and energy and you’ve built a rapport with the seller. It took us 3 weeks before we were willing to just ‘shrug it off’ and walk away.
Have any of you worldly people out there got some advice for us? We’re always keen to upskill! Otherwise, check out our other tips for traveling.