How to Bargain When Shopping in Port

Bargaining can be fun. In many cultures, it’s expected. When you visit port cities and shop in local markets, you will likely find yourself in the position where you need to negotiate. Here’ are some pointers.

  1. Know when to negotiate. If you are at an antique market, a flea market or a bazaar, you are generally expected to banter back and forth over the price. It’s even been said they have a name for the type of people who pay the asking price, no questions asked. It’s not polite to the consumer.
  2. Know when not to negotiate. Regardless of culture, negotiating is not done in restaurants, hotels, established department stores, groceries and when buying tour, train or bus tickets. Sometimes taxis do it, but in many cities they are metered.
  3. Unexpected places where you negotiate. Art galleries and jewelry stores are often expecting some back and forth bargaining on price. Buying rugs is another area.
  4. What can you expect? If you are at the Portobello Road Antique Market in London and handling a Georgian silver teapot, you might get the 10% discount they offer to the trade. If you watch the BBC TV series Antiques Road Trip, they imply to can get about a third off. That’s television, not real life. If you are in parts of the word where the item is attractive, but has little intrinsic value, you might get as much as 50% off.
  5. How long does it take? Typically, negotiation in a street market is over in minutes. A friend explained when buying a rug in Turkey, it can be a several day procedure of discussing price, walking out, coming back the next day and eventually settling on a price.
  6. Be polite and considerate. The dealer should be proud of their stock. You admire an item, would really like it, but aren’t prepared to pay what they are asking. Don’t disparage the item as a strategy to get a lower price. Why would you want to buy something with all the flaws you mentioned?
  7. Set a price in your mind beforehand. Curiously, negotiating to buy something is like attending an auction. You are bidding. You want your bid to be accepted. Set a price you are willing to pay. Be prepared to walk away.
  8. You aren’t hurting their feelings. People selling in markets are pretty astute. They won’t be selling below their cost, generally speaking. If they accept your offer, they are probably doing pretty well.
  9. Carry small bills in local currently. Ideally this is folded in your pocket. Good market vendors can glance in your wallet and get a pretty good estimate of how much cash you have. Hypothetically, if you explained you only have ten dollars to spend and they eventually agree to your price, you shouldn’t be pulling out a $ 50 bill and asking for change. Small bills allow you to pay without getting change back. This protects against possibly getting counterfeit currency in your change.
  10. Good cop, bad cop. I bring this up because it’s fun. We will be in a market. My wife is looking at linen napkins. They quote a price. I join in with “What do we need more napkins for? Don’t you have enough?” It’s all “scripted” including the responses from the seller.
  11. When bartering involves beverages. If you are buying a high ticket item like artwork in a gallery, the sales process often involves being seated at a table with the salesperson. You are offered tea or coffee. It’s a ritual that places you both on the same level (seated) and establishes you as equals. It’s part of the negotiating process. Look around an art gallery the next time you visit. You will spot the tables.

Buying keepsakes to remember your vacation is fun. Negotiation is expected. It helps to know the basics.

Cover photo Christmas Market by Bryce Sanders

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