Everyone is familiar with the basics of negotiation. It’s bargaining 101. While it is not commonly used in commercial settings such as malls and plazas or grocery stores where bar-codes and regulated trade exist, once you step outside of the regulated businesses there is a wide open world of deals and bargains to be had…provided you have the skills to take advantage of them.
Negotiation is a life skill, something that you can use wherever you go in the world. However, while it is a beneficial skill that can help you live like a local no matter what city you choose to call home, there are a few aspects of negotiation that you must consider before you dive headlong into it. There’s a certain protocol to negotiating things properly and knowing how to go about it can save you from potentially offending someone or making an ass out of yourself in a situation that could otherwise have been avoided.
First off, you have to understand when you can and cannot negotiate. The aforementioned commercial settings are a good example of places that traditionally do not accept bargaining because everything is bar-coded and tracked and in the system, which means the general workers can’t really give you a deal on anything. But it is possible if you know how to work your magic. For example, you can often get a significant discount on things such as the display units for televisions, furniture and otherwise if you are willing to pay cash up front and take it as-is without a warranty. I’ve used this method to buy things for my apartments in the past and have gotten deals anywhere from 30 to 50 percent off, but you have to talk to the store manager, not the regular clerks. However, bear in mind that negotiating in a commercial setting is fairly rare and you can’t do it very often, and certainly never for groceries. It’s a case-by-case basis in these instances.
Another thing is to know the standard discount you can get when you attempt to negotiate. Once you have settled in to live like a local in your chosen city you should always ask your neighbors, landlord, taxi drivers and other local people what the going rate is for discounts. Most of the time it’s between 10 and 20 percent, but it’s not uncommon in some places for you to be able to get a discount of up to 50 percent. However, the level of discount you receive is going to depend on a few factors, such as your language level, whether you are in a tourist bazaar or the local food market and what country you are in. As a general rule the local markets range in the 10 to 20 percent bracket and the tourist markets can range from 30 to 50 percent, because the merchants are counting on tourists with lots of cash who are more than willing to blow it, so they jack their rates up to double what things really are. They aren’t stupid; they know most tourists either don’t speak the language or have no idea what the actual local prices are, so they can get away with highway robbery against the unsuspecting newbies.
There is a basic rule to bargaining as well, and that is to never take things personally. Always be friendly with people even when you are bargaining. Never be rude. Once you know the rates and what to shoot for you can deal with the local merchants on a more even playing field but if someone isn’t willing to budge on their prices you can simply thank them, bid them a good day and go on about your business. There are plenty of other merchants and you don’t need to cause a fuss over something as simple as a slight discount off the price. And if it’s something you absolutely have to have and the merchant won’t budge, you can eat a little bit of crow and pay the full price.
As far as negotiating tips goes, there’s far more than I can cover in a single post, and each one of the Live Like a Local guides includes in-depth information on how to negotiate in the specific city the guide is written for. However, one of the basic things you can do when you head into an open market to look for something specific is simply take your time. Walk around, smile and thank the merchants, check the prices on things, and eventually make your way back to whatever merchant has something you like. At this point you can say something along the lines of, “I like what you have here, but the guy over there has it in X color, and while I’d love to have it in that color if you are willing to sell it to me for Y price….” (where Y is whatever percent you know is appropriate for the local area)
Open markets are a great place to buy bulk, and this is when you get the best discounts. This applies to anything from fruits and vegetables to clothing, shoes, spare parts and beyond. Like scarves and see a merchant selling them for 10 dollars a pop? Tell them you are willing to buy 10 of them if they drop their price to X dollars (depending on local discount) and go from there. As long as you are fair with your rates and don’t ask for a ridiculous discount (which you shouldn’t if you have asked the locals what the rates are) you can always get a good deal no matter where you go in the world.