Still no news on the job-front, the idea of leaving this country becomes more and more appealing. Doing business with Kiwis has been no fun so far. How different Asia is in that regard, here’s my collected know-how on getting good deals in SEA.
Everybody knows that in Asian countries bargaining is common and locals often try to charge foreigners ridiculously high prices. So how do you bargain successfully, how do you get a price you know is not completely hilarious? Remember: If it doesn’t have a price tag, the price is negotiable.
Should you even bargain or is it not better to give some money to all these poor people? While it is true that the locals can use every single dollar you have to spend, allowing them to blatantly rip you off will have a negative impact on the local economy.
In Battambang, Cambodia, tuk-tuk drivers beat each other up because they all want to drive the westerners around and charge a fortune for their services. In Bangkok locals sometimes struggle to get a taxi because the drivers hope to get a western passenger whom they can charge five times as much as a Thai.
The first step to successful bargaining is knowing a realistic price for the item or service you want to purchase. If you need a taxi, tuk-tuk, moto or the like, the internet and locals from your hostel/hotel are a good source of information. If you are shopping for souvenirs at a market, ask several vendors for the price of an item you are interested in. There is always more than one shop selling the same stuff.
Once you have an idea of what you should pay you can simply ask for a discount, you don’t even need to give a reason. Quite often that drops the price a little already but it usually is still too high. In general, the more touristy the area, the more unrealistic the initial price.
Your next step is to suggest a price yourself. Quote a price lower than what you are willing to pay and try to meet the seller half-way between his idea of a good price and yours. That is somewhat of the most traditional form of bargaining.
Now you have dropped the price but it still seems to high? Time to play your best card, the walking away joker. Tell the merchant that you will think about his offer but want to have a look around first. He knows that he is not the only one selling whatever you are interested in and will become concerned that you might purchase elsewhere.
There is three possible outcomes of that maneuver. Firstly he might let you go which means the price he offered you is as low as he is willing to go. He might also suggest a new, lower price but you should reject that offer as well. Almost always a second drop will follow and that price is basically as low as he is willing to go.
Sometimes you might hear ‘ok, how much you pay?’, which means the merchant initially quoted a price that was completely made up and is now trying to get as much money as possible out of your wallet. It’s open fire now, he tried to overcharge you massively so don’t hesitate to make a ridiculously small offer.
It is important to remember that you don’t need to buy from a specific shop (or driver), there is plenty of supply (unless you are trying to get a taxi during a monsoon downpour) and the fact that you have the choice is what gives you your power in the bargaining game.
Some specific information: A good way to lower prices on markets is to buy bulk. If you want to get four t-shirts, get them all at one shop, you’ll get the biggest discount that way.
Taxis, tuk-tuks and their two-wheeled companions are usually cheapest if flagged down in the streets. Those waiting at the corner of a touristy area are just looking for big money and won’t give you a good deal. Go to a street that leads to where you want to go and hail drivers as they come along. They might be going your way anyway and will rather take you along for small money than don’t make any money at all.
And remember: Always be friendly, smile and don’t raise your voice. Ass-holes don’t get good deals, nice guys do.
Speaking the local language is always a big help and yes, Eric was drunk in that video, Khmer doesn’t require moving your arm like that.