I’ve spent some time now in Morocco and Turkey, two places where the prices you see/hear are merely suggestions. If you are feeling unadventurous, go ahead and pay the ridiculously inflated prices. But, the only way to get the good deals on the scarves, shoes, pants, carpets, lanterns, etc., etc., is to talk talk talk and barter your way to those goodies you know you want to cram into your backpack.
Being a backpacker, my budget is tight, so bartering is the only option. I’ve gotten some pretty sweet deals (meaning I have paid likely the cost or a tad bit under what the price should be for items).
My tricks of the bartering trade?
1. Be prepared. If you are cranky, tired, hungover or in anything but a decent to excellent mood, you won’t last a second in the souks or stores. They are overwhelming. People are talking at you from all sides. They do anything to get your attention, from calling out to you in a multitude of languages to slurring racy (and annoying/inappropriate at times come-ons). If you can’t go in to the abyss with a good head, there’s no way you will be able to negotiate.
2. Don’t reek of money. Walking wide-eyed through the winding turns of shops with a hole to burn in your pocket is noticeable. Don’t ask me how, but the owners know you have money to spend and they will rope you in. The more casual you act when walking through, the more times you shake your head “no” before landing in front of displays, the longer your money will last.
3. Don’t act too interested. Eager Beavers won’t fare well. Don’t “ooh” and “ahhh” too much over anything. To owners, it screams “sucka” and they will start their bidding even higher, giving you less of a chance to barter without looking like a tool. They know the sale is imminent. The less you love something (or appear) to love something, the lower they will start.
4. Establish you are on a budget. When they say the starting price, look a bit put back. There’s just no way I could possibly afford that. If you have someone with you (and this works great for couples or co-ed teams), you can have a conversation with the eyes. You know the one — “honey, I really like this.” “No, dear, it is out of our price range.” Feign disappointment. Then, go name your price. I start really low.
5. Don’t be afraid of seeming insulting. Unless you know the shop owner, start LOW. They are used to it and if it is too low, they will tell you right out they can’t make the deal. I typically take the price they offer and more than half it.
6. Leave your wallet out of sight. Before you even enter into the carnival of stores, take the money out of your wallet you want to spend. Put bills in different pockets (front pockets — and keep an eye for pickpocketing) so when you name your price and they agree, you don’t look like an ass when you open your wallet to a roll of 100s. This also helps when you tell them you only have 50 YTL to spend. The times I have gotten the best deals, I have pulled the money I have out of my pocket and explained that “this is all I have …” More times than not, if the money you have turns them any profit at all (even an itty bitty bit), you get the item.
7. Walk away. You have gone back and forth. No deal can be struck. What do you do? Walk away. If the discrepancy is only a little bit, you will get called back and told it is a deal. If you don’t hear that call? Well, then really walk away. Go somewhere else.
8. Make friends. If you are spending some time in one place, and walk by often enough, shop owners will get to know you. You can stop, chat, etc. but never buy anything. Then, if/when you are ready to buy, go to them. At that point, you have established a “relationship” with them and they will give you a good deal. A genuine good deal. If you don’t believe me, make friends, see them barter with other customers, and then see what you get.
9. When you get worn out, leave. (See Tip #1).
Do you have a trick of the trade to share? Post below!