On Flashback Fridays I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog: Follow at #FlashbackFri
“You wanna buy something lady???” – “You want a tuk tuk lady?” – “You want to go on a tour?” – I lost count how many times I have heard these questions now and over the years I learned that negotiating for all of those things is the way to go in Asia and South America. I grew up in Germany, where everything has fixed prices. You might be able to negotiate a price with service providers, such as carpenters, but when you go to the market or a shop this is not really possible.
So when someone like me gets exposed to places where haggling is the norm, I usually feel quite uncomfortable. I constantly feel I am being ripped off and at the same time when I stand my ground and I get the price I wanted I feel like I ripped the seller off. However, having lived and traveled in Asia for two years now I think I am getting much better at haggling now. With tuk tuk drivers I am that confident now that I just use the non-verbal bargaining technique. I don’t negotiate a tuk tuk price before I go in and just give the driver what I think is a decent amount of money when I leave the tuk tuk again. It works really well and I never have any problems with that. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert at all, and as a foreigner I am still charged more than locals of course, but I think I am not bad at all at haggling actually. So why do I think I am quite good at haggling? To explain that I need to go back a few years to when I went to the Otavalo market in Ecuador with Chris.
The Otavalo market is one of the biggest markets in Ecuador and you can buy everything there. By Everything I mean literally everything! The indigenous Otavaeños are famous for their weaving textiles, but during the market’s peak, almost one third of the town becomes full of stalls selling textiles, animals, tagua nut jewelry, musical instruments, dream catchers, leather goods, fake shrunken heads, indigenous costumes, hand-painted platters and trays, purses, clothing, spices, raw foods and spools of wool.
I am a real sucker for buying handicrafts, jewelry or handbags, so I was in heaven at the Otavalo market. With my rusty Spanish I tried to buy a wooly hat and matching gloves. I asked how much they were individually. He said US$5 each. I looked a bit hesitant and made him an offer to buy both for $7. He nodded. Score! My first attempt at bargaining in South America and it worked.
I felt very confident and wanted to try my luck at some panama hats next (which confusingly are actually made in Ecuador and not Panama). Genuine Panama hats are very expensive. They costs hundreds of Dollars in Western countries, but should be much cheaper of course when you buy them locally, so I knew I had to up my game here a little bit. I asked how much for a hat. The stall owner that $US60. I said I’d buy it for $20. He started talking about his sick children and said he wanted at least US40. Really, the sick children method? I am sure I saw them running around behind his stall a minute ago. Plus, thanks to my Lonely Planet I knew that Otavaleños are the wealthiest and most commercially successful indigenous people in Ecuador – a status which translates to owning hotels and SUV cars. So this man was clearly a professional, but I wasn’t going to give up. I made a counter offer of US$30, but he rejected. Damn! I really wanted to buy a hat for my dad, so I did the ultimate in haggling – the walk away bargaining tactic. Miraculously he suddenly agreed to my $30 offer and because I kind of felt bad for negotiating that hard, we decided to buy two hats, one for my dad and one for Chris. His face lid up and everybody was happy.
So this whole negotiating thing at Otavalo market really wasn’t that hard if you stay consistent. Next Chris wanted to buy a Che Guevara T-Shirt and I led on the negotiations again. The stall owner wanted US$15 for the T-Shirt, so I made a counter offer of $5. He then said $10. I got distracted by a friend who was asking me a question for a split second and then the unimaginable happened. So remember the guy wanted $10 for the T-Shirt the last I heard and then all of the sudden Chris came in and said, ok I give you US$12. Wait, what? He just negotiated the price up by US$2, even though the seller was happy to go for $10 a minute ago. The seller had the biggest grin on his face and said it is a deal. Doh! And that ladies and gentlemen, is how not to haggle.
What about you? Do you like haggling? What is your best method of getting a good deal?