In the United States, we don’t haggle. Everything has its price clearly labelled on it, and if we think it is too much, we don’t buy it. If we see something we want, we scurry home and search online to try and find a better price. It’s a quiet and personal process, with all the decisions made in your head with minimal conversation, and most importantly: no haggling.
The process of buying something is quite different when you travel. In many places, nothing has a price affixed to it except for your meals at a restaurant (and even then it’s not all the time). You have to haggle for the goods you want to buy, the cost of a taxi, even the cost of your room for the night, often with a small crowd around you. You are able to feel their eyes darting back and forth, following the haggling like viewers at a tennis match, quietly judging you and how you haggle…or maybe that’s just me.
So, after many trials and mostly failures, I have put together the Wandering Sasquatch Guide on How (not) to Haggle.
Step 1: As you are walking down the street, slow down when you pass shops and awkwardly strain your neck to look into shops to see if there is anything that interests you. If there is something you like, repeat Step 1 two or three more times.
Step 2: Enter the shop and browse around. Avoid eye contact with the shopkeeper at all costs. Ignore the item you want to buy. Look at, pick up, and examine everything else. When the shopkeeper starts to eye you wearily, casually walk over to the item you like and nonchalantly ask how much it is (if you can do this is a broken, unintelligible version of the language the shopkeeper speaks, even better).
Step 3: When the shopkeeper tells you the price, nod gravely but do not say anything. I repeat: do NOT say anything. Keep your silence until the shopkeeper initiates conversation again.
Step 4: When the shopkeeper resumes talking, say that the price is more than you would like to spend, and quickly head for the exit. Do not stop or hesitate on your way out. If the shopkeeper tries to speak with you, feign deafness and continue to the exit and continue walking down the street. As you are walking down the street, you might begin to feel a little disappointment that you did not even attempt to haggle. If you do, that’s good, it means you are on the right track.
Step 5: Find another shop that sells the exact same item you want (most likely it will be next door), and repeat Steps 1 through 3.
Step 6: Here is where it gets a little tricky. When the shop keeper resumes talking after telling you the price (which is inevitably more than what shopkeeper #1 asked), say “hmmmm” and waggle your head back and forth and pass the item back and forth in your hands as quickly as possible. This action will distract the shopkeeper, or at least make them think you are a little crazy. Either way, you have accomplished your goal: throw the shopkeeper off their game.
Step 7: Now, pounce on their confusion and quickly offer shopkeeper #2 the exact same price that shopkeeper #1 offered, but make sure to do so in a quiet and mumbling voice, which you will have to repeat a couple of times. This act of repeating will ensure that shopkeeper #2 will accept your offer. Now all that is left is to pay for your new souvenir.
Congratulation, now you know how (not) to haggle like a Wandering Sasquatch!
Now, I know the question you will be asking: Why not just accept shopkeeper #1’s offer? And to that I say: If you did that, then you wouldn’t be haggling!