Few feelings are worse as a budget backpacker than knowing that you’ve just been ripped off. You feel cheated, outwitted, and like a dumb tourist. Scenes of your antagonist laughing his/her way to the bank begin to plague your waking life. You imagine all the meals you could have afforded if you hadn’t succumbed to that shopkeepers inflated price. It is one of the most frustrating and self-angering feelings in the world.
Unfortunately, no matter how many times you’ve been ripped off in the past, it seems to happen time and time again. Fortunately, through an understanding of why we let this happen, and the haggling tactics of hustling shopkeepers, we can begin to abate it and one day come out on top with the best price possible.
Understanding Their Tactics
Our tragic flaw as Westerners is that we are just too dang polite and inexperienced in the art of haggling. We are a society of people programmed to avoid confrontation. Our prices are fixed and unless you are from an older generation, hardly anyone dares to question them. It is just the way that our culture of capitalism has developed. The result of which is a generation of soft people who regularly allow themselves to be shit on by exorbitant prices.
Shopkeepers around the world realize this and capitalize gloriously on it. They play us tourists like impotent puppets. They know we have money and they know how to play on our weaknesses in order to acquire it. Below is a list of strategies shopkeepers employ to convince us that we want to be shit on.
Shopkeepers know how uncomfortable confrontation makes us feel, especially when it concerns money. To capitalize on this weakness, they often become upset. They sometimes even start to yell in a disorienting manner. More times than not, most of us will give in and pay whatever price they ask.
2 Let’s Be Friends
One of the most popular tactics around the world is for shopkeepers to appeal to your politeness and your desire to make friends with locals. They do this by being overly polite and amiable. They will try to relate to you on multiple levels. However, soon after, they will begin to pressure you into buying half their shop. However, sometimes they really do just want to be your friend, in which case, you should use your best judgement.
3 The Guilt Trip
This strategy is one of the most effective. They know that many of us harbor guilt about our relative wealth in comparison to the local country. And they know that if they tell you of their poverty and economic hardship that most of us will help out by buying a trinket or two. However, even in the poorest country, don’t be fooled. Shopkeepers that are clever enough to employ this method are usually the ones that are most well off.
This is one of the saddest and thus another very effective technique. Countless parents around the world play on our compassion by sending their kids out into the street to sell everything from tissues to bracelets. Since we can almost never resist the pleas of children, we give in and buy. However, by buying from kids we inadvertently support the use of children as vendors. More, the parents or shopkeepers are the ones who actually get paid.
Don’t be fooled by the tactics of shopkeepers. If they get angry, just leave. If they want to become your friend, they really just want your money. When they guilt trip you, they are usually driving home in a quality car. And if they use their kids, refuse to support it. They are professionals with life long experience in the art of squeezing money out of tourists. Don’t let them get the better of you and shit on your budget.
How to Haggle Like a Pro
In order to haggle like a pro, it is time to get tough. You must be familiar and immune to the former tactics and realize that business is business. You need to let go your compassion and politeness and know that any price can be haggled down. Below is a list of everything you need to know to haggle like a pro.
1 Tourist vs Local Prices
One of the hardest aspects of haggling is not knowing the actual or fair price. Throughout the world, many shopkeepers and restaurant owners have separate prices for tourists and locals. Often times, tourist prices can be many times greater than the local price. In order to find out the real price, it is your turn to guilt trip them. Ask them or onlookers strait out, “Is this the foreigner price or local/your, price?” When they smile stupidly at you, then you know that they are trying to sell you tourist prices. If no one admits to the normal price, a good rule of thumb to determine the local price is to subtract around 60%. Remember, you can always raise your offer, but never lower it again once you do. Start low and settle in the middle.
2 Everything is Made in China
It is an unfortunate truth theses days that almost everything is made in China. As a result, whatever it is you want to buy, it can usually be found at multiple shops. That being said, if you can’t get the price you want for something, simply move on to the next shop and try again.
3 Walk Away
Even if what you want to buy is unique to only one shop, walking away during negotiations is one of the best ways to secure a lower price. As you walk away, the shopkeeper will almost always yell out lower prices. Stop for a minute and feign interest, and then keep on walking. When you hear a price you like, you can always return.
4 Wait Until They Get Angry
You know you have haggled the best price possible when the shopkeeper is genuinely mad and frustrated. Although it might make you feel guilty, just don’t. There are plenty of other tourists he or she can rob in the future.
Even if you are aware of your weaknesses, the tactics used by shopkeepers, and the art of haggling, there will still be times that you will be ripped off. We can never truly rid ourselves of our own haggle-less culture and become as tough as hardened shopkeepers. It is simply one of the trails of traveling. If you let your self get too worked up over it, then you will become a pretty sour puss of a backpacker. While you should try your best to get a price that you’re happy with, don’t beat yourself up too bad if you don’t. Every haggling experience teaches you something and there is always another day and another shop to haggle at.
Good luck and gyp free travels,