How to barter like a pro


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.

Related articles:
Bringing religion to the people
Leon says hello from Hanoi
Nine must-have travel skills

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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