Walking Away a Winner

(Alex) “How much is this?” I ask as I step into the shop selling the dress I want. The shopkeeper then smiles at me, since I am a vulnerable American kid. “$25 US Dolla” says the happy shopkeeper. Now, I know that there are three prices: the tourist price – usually about a 300% markup depending on what you are buying, the local with tourist price – usually a 200% markup, and the local price – the good reasonable price. I usually offer about 1/4th of the price they are asking. So for the $25 dress, I counter with $7-10. Now, this is when the bargaining gets interesting. When I say $7-10, she starts to laugh; then realizing that I am completely serious, her smile quickly disappears. She says, “No, No, No! This is good silk! So I give you good price, $23 Dolla!” I smile, since I am not going to buy it for more than 10 dollars, I say “no thank you; I will just go to a different store.” Now the shopkeeper is annoyed that she might lose the sale. I continue to make my way slowly to the exit when the lady calls over to me “$18 last price!” Notice how the shopkeeper took a big chunk off of the price since she was panicked that I was leaving. I say no thank you and move to the next shop.

Now, it is pretty funny, but in south-east Asia, everyone has the exact same stuff, maybe differing by a color or two. So it is not a big deal that I left the previous shop. I enter the shop next-door and look for what I want. If I find it, I do the same routine, now knowing what the tourist price is for the particular item. “Excuse me, how much is this dress?” The shopkeeper is right on my heel, knowing that I am an interested buyer. She tells me this dress is $22, but she will give me a special price- $18. I counter with $10 by saying that the shop further down the road offered me $10 which obviously isn’t true. What the shopkeepers don’t seem to understand is that if the shop further down gave me the price I wanted, why didn’t I buy that dress? But that is for me to know, and for them to not, so I can get a good price! Usually the numbers are discussed on a calculator, so the price doesnít get confused with the languages. I usually get a good price since I smile a lot and joke around, but the shopkeeper still knows that I am serious. Usually, what I use is the ‘I only have X number of dong” trick (Dong are Vietnamese money- about 20,000 VND to 1 USD). This time, I say that I only have 200,000 dong, since that is about $10. The lady tries to get higher by saying that it is for good luck and raises my price by about 50,000 VND ($2.50) but I need to stick with my price, otherwise the shopkeeper will sense that I am either lying or that I am unsure about my price, which I am most definitely not. After a little more pleading, the shopkeeper will eventually give up, and sell me the dress I want, for the price I want. If she doesn’t, I will again move down the road to a new shop and bargain there.

I know that these vendors are working as hard as they can to make a living off the small profits they make a day. I also know that they won’t sell at a price they don’t want. So usually I give in a little earlier, but I like to bargain as much as I can because now it is a hobby! I always smile at my vendor and try to be as friendly as I can so they don’t feel like they are losing money to a fourteen year old. What I find interesting, is that EVERYTHING is negotiable, whether a dress, souvenir, shoes, food in the market, even spa treatments, you can always try to get the price lower. Markets are all over the world; Greece, Kenya, Egypt, Israel, Ecuador, Peru, Australia, Bali, Cambodia and Viet Nam and I am looking forward to more bargaining in the months to come!

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4 Responses to “Walking Away a Winner”

  1. Way to to go Alex! Just remember: hone those negotiating skills on the vendors—save your parents! :^]

  2. You are DEFINITELY my granddaughter, although in the US I have to look for super sale items! As you know, Bibi’s “store” often has clothes that the White clan like, especially from A&F. If I ever travel to a country in which I can barter, I will take lessons from you before I depart!!! Miss everyone…..hugs to all. bibi

  3. Those outdoor shops look awesome!=)

  4. My dearest Alex,
    I just LOVE your story! Missing you so so so much, sending many kisses to all of you! I’m in Egypt and should be in India in 2 weeks or so…