Insider travel tips: How to haggle like a pro

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There are certain benefits to taking a package tour of a foreign land. Obviously, being shown around by an experienced tour guide is one, along with all the knowledge of the region, including best food, markets, shops and attractions.

But being able to tap into the insider tips in a tour guides head is certainly the most advantageous aspect of being on tour.

Today I learned ‘the Hanoi Haggle’.

The Vietnamese people want to sell you something. That’s why they chase you down like a dog who has seen an Aussie Post logo.

Most often it’s for something that interests me but I wouldn’t necessarily buy.

My new friend Son just told me that negotiating is in the Vietnamese peoples’ blood. They treat it as a battle and they love to fight. He haggles at markets, retail outlets, stores and even at the supermarket checkout. He almost always pays less than the marked price.

Sucker me, who for two days had blindly been paying full price for anything I’d bought up to this point, finally realises that all storeholders had been laughing at my back as I walk away with my purchases. Even though prices are already rock-bottom.

Son tells me that whatever the price is that a vendor quotes could be up to 40 per cent higher than the price on which they may eventually settle.

Son recommends that, once the price is quoted, you rebut at 40 per cent of the cost.

If they come back at, say, 20 per cent off, find any possible fault or issue with the quality of the product, even if there isn’t one.

Stick to your 40 per cent price.

Then, if they quote you a lower price, say you’re not really interested. Put the product down or go even lower with your price. Say you were happy to pay that but now you don’t really want it.

Then, if they match your price, buy it. You now have a bargain.

If you really don’t want the product but they persist in hounding you, or even if you never wanted to buy anything and you are ‘sales-stalked’, ask the seller about their family and their life outside of work. Anything that steers them away from the ‘sale’. Or offer them 10 per cent of the total cost. They will quickly realise you are wasting their time and they’ll leave you alone.

It’s worth noting though, that the prices in Vietnam are so low, that haggling isn’t necessary. But Son assures me that sellers love a good fight.

I put my newfound knowledge to the test today at the Hoi An Central Market and bought two items for the price of what another vendor offered me for one. And it was fun haggling with the vendor, too. We both were smiling as we concluded the sale.

The rest of my goods, well, let’s just say they are already bargains and, as I am lucky to live in Australia and am in good employment, I have the good fortune to choose my battles.

What are your tips for haggling?

Leon is travelling through Vietnam as a guest of Webjet Exclusives.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 8
  1. 0

    The article title used the word, “Barter”. To barter is to exchange goods or services for other goods and services. eg; I’ll trade you this chook for a bag of spuds. What this article is about is negotiating or haggling to bring the price down.

  2. 0

    Haggling over price is a game in some countries. That is OK. But I have seen wealthy tourists battering poor people in African countries. These people spend hours making the things they sell, often working in poor light at the end of a day of sitting on a street corner, in all weathers, with their wares. They are desperate to put food into the mouths of their families and eventually give in, so desperate is their need.

    So when you leave your lovely cruise ship, tour party, expensive hotel to explore remember that it is entirely possible that at the end of your day you will spend more on alcohol than these people make in a week.

    • 0

      Yes, very true. It becomes about the sport of haggling and satisfying the ego rather than paying a fair price. Often it comes down to a matter of a few dollars. In Bali or Thailand, I’ve been guilty of the same. Upon realising, I’ve handed over a tip as thanks.

  3. 0

    You mean how to bargain like a pro. Barter is the exchange of goods or services for other goods or services without the use of money.

  4. 0

    I have been travelling to India for almost 30 yrs , guess what you will never get a good bottom price !! they are the master of charging extra for tourists, its in their culture !! but good luck trying !!

  5. 0

    People in most countries haggle. Those with attitude or couldn’t be bothered don’t.
    The difference is large amounts of money which can be saved. I haggle and it mostly works well because many merchants give you the rack rate and if you accept it’s their gain. They almost always have a lower figure they will accept.

  6. 0

    Most shops in Australia too expect you to haggle with them too. Harvey Norman prices their goods expecting to sell them a lot cheaper. They also have higher prices as many people take advantage of their zero finance offers so need to price their goods to pay for the financing of the goods. Other shops just price match each other. Jewellery shops expect to haggle too. Clothes shops do too. Even my local junk shop gives me 10% off if I ask.

    • 0

      I wish you would tell us which shops you can haggle in in Australia. I doubt if you would have success at Target, Myers, Big W, David Jones, Bunnings, etc. The staff in most shops do not have the authority to bring prices down.

      I know that you can try in some of the electronics places. It doesn’t always work though.



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