One pretty cool part of traveling the world is that instead of wandering the mall on an otherwise boring Sunday, you can cruise the local markets of the world instead, whether it be the San Lorenzo Market of Florence, Italy, the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, Turkey, or the German Christmas Markets. However, unlike the mall, you need to learn how to haggle like a pro in order to score some cool stuff without accidentally spending your dinner money. And, you need to do it while having fun – there’s no reason to be nervous about wanting to pay a price you think is reasonable and not being afraid to ask for it.
1. Make someone laugh. Everyone, even seemingly conniving shopkeepers, are looking for a laugh, especially at their day jobs. So while haggling, if you can get a little personal with the shopkeeper; talk to him about the cool stuff he’s got or entertain his lame pickup lines with a friendly smile, you’re golden. He will be more willing to entertain your offers if he sees you as a friend instead of just another tourist.
2. Never be the first to name a price. There’s been many times when I was willing to offer a much higher initial price but then I heard the shopkeeper’s price before I even said a word. For this reason, don’t be afraid to ask, in a non-desperate way, how much something costs. And if they ask you in return how much you want to pay, either go for a major low-ball or ask, “Well how much are you looking to sell it for?”
3. Don’t be afraid to walk away. The best move you can make, even for an item you’re absolutely in love with, is to walk away when a haggle is totally not going your way because the shopkeeper isn’t budging. There will be times you will walk away, seemingly without a care, and no one will call you back. Guess what? Come back around in ten minutes and no one is going to remember you anyway. However, more often than not, you’ll get a frantic Wait! Wait! Trust me, they want to sell that crap just as much as you want to buy it.
4. Enlist a partner. It’s always good to have someone on your side who is as awesome at haggling as you are to say, only to strengthen your case, “Come on, that’s too much money. It’s not worth it.” There’s strength in numbers. If a shopkeeper knows it’s going to be two against one he is more likely to compromise. Pick a code to signal to your partner when you’re in need of some help.
5. Don’t be stupid. In Canal Street, especially if you’re a dumb looking girl with a fancy bag, people are going to mob you and try to get you to follow them for blocks and blocks to come to their shop (one that most likely is hidden in a basement or behind a fake wall). Be careful with this kind of stuff. Never get too close to a van, no matter how cute those bags are, and never wander down those sketchy stairwells. It’s never going to be worth it.
6. Lie. Twenty bucks too much for that crappy bracelet? Yes, I agree. Because you saw it down the street for $10… except not really. Don’t be afraid to make up a little white lie to get the price you want. No one is ever gonna know that you haven’t even seen the item yet besides in this shop.
7. Don’t allow yourself to be charmed. Obviously, it’s OK to flirt – this goes hand-in-hand with haggling. However, don’t think you’re the only one who is trying to charm – usually these suave shopkeepers know their game just as well and will tell you anything you want to hear to get you to buy that $300 leather jacket. Keep in mind that yes, laugh, smile, and be friendly, but you’re also the 18th person today that they have told has beautiful eyes.
8. Take your time. If you feel like you may be getting too caught up in the fun and are going to make a regrettable purchase, you can always say you’re going to think about it and come back later. I particularly like doing this for huge, overwhelming markets, because I don’t want to spend a ton on one item only to see it ten minutes later being sported for half the price. Take your time. Trust me, it isn’t going anywhere, especially if they tell you that it is.
9. Keep those wandering hands at bay. It may seem easy enough to grab something off a table when the keeper isn’t looking, but this is a really bad idea. All of these shopkeepers are friends, people, and even if yours doesn’t spot you lifting, somebody else will, and trust me, you’re going to be wishing there was a cop around if you get mixed up in this kind of sketchy business.
10. Never be taken for a schlub. Especially when you’re a girl, people think that you have money to spend and it’s easy to be taken advantage of. Show them that this is not the case. Speak confidently, don’t be afraid to bargain or walk away, and hold tight to the price that you want.