Bargaining is a Learning Process, Kandy, Sri Lanka

By: sachilefever on March 8, 2006 - 8:14pm

Bargaining is a way of life here, as it is in most of Asia and other parts of the world. We, and most Americans, are just not good at it because we've never really had to do it on a daily basis. Or maybe I should say hourly basis. Everything is up for bargaining - Food, crafts, hotel rooms, tips for the people who store your shoes at the temples. It's a little exhausting just because on top of trying to bargain smarter, we have no notion of how much things should cost. We know they raise the prices for tourists (sometimes even 3 or 10 times the local price), but knowing what we should pay as a tourist is a tricky deal. I think you need a driver to clue you in or just spend enough time in a city or country to get a feel of the markets.

Lee has been learning to bargain better. I think he did well in Singapore, but we're still getting used to the price conversions here. For the price of a collared dress shirt in the US, you can apparently buy a nice wardrobe for a year here - as a local. After every transaction, Lee just shrugs his shoulders and guesses the price sounds right. We feel much more like tourists than anywhere else so far. We'll figure it out more as we go.

By: Hae (not verified) on March 9, 2006 - 9:34am

We were traveling in Thailand years back, and we knew that we were getting 'hosed' in bargaining.

 There was an amazing shirt that I knew was twice the going price and 'out of principle' I didn't buy it.  On the plane leaving Bangkok, I was kicking myself for not buying that shirt because even at twice the price, it was only a few dollars. 

It sucks because it wasn't about the money, but the frustration of not being able to communicate, the feeling of 'being taken' (implication of being preceived as 'not smart' by not being able to speak the language).  

Enjoy your time and I wouldn't dwell on the bargaining too much.  Just smile, enjoy the communication of bargaining and the worst case scenario would a few extra dollars, a great story to tell your friends in Seattle.

Wishing I could be doing what you're doing (Vancouver).  Cheers! 

By: A lost soul on the internet (not verified) on March 10, 2006 - 2:19pm

I was in China last summer, after a few weeks i begin to have any bargaining skills. Was fun after all, Good luck with bargaining.

~ wiches you a great time!

By: JordanR (not verified) on March 14, 2006 - 11:49pm
Here's a good bargaining trick I learned from a family friend in Hong Kong. Start at around 2/3 the listed price (or what you think they usually charge tourists). They'll give a counter offer, expecting to meet you in between. Instead, drop your offer a bit. They'll think you're confused and try again, so drop your offer again. At this point they'll generally realize you mean business and take your offer. This is far more satisfying, and wastes less time, than the traditional bargaining ritual.