While some people think haggling over prices is a waste of time, it is part of the Southeast Asian cultural experience. You can have a fun and friendly experience with the vendor without leaving frustrated or angry. That includes the seller.
First, you need to figure out which stores you can bargain at in the first place. Even though bargaining is normal in most places, there are stores with set prices. You’d only look like a fool if you start asking for a lower price. Places that you don’t need to bargain at are normally restaurants, bus stations, grocery stores, and any place that has signs that say ‘no bargaining’ or already have price tags on everything.
With that being said, pick your battles wisely. Carefully consider whether or not it is really worth it to spend an hour bargain down the price by one US dollar. With that in mind, stop being embarrassed at asking for a lower price. Vendors here are so used to bargaining with their customers they won’t care if you come up to them and start haggling away.
If you already have an item in mind you want to purchase, do your research first. How else can you gauge if you’re getting ripped off or not if you don’t know how much an item is supposed to cost? Go ahead and Google to see what average prices are, and even a quick product description. For higher priced items, make sure you know what details to look for so you don’t end up buying a counterfeit item (unless that is what you went looking for).
If you choose to bargain, don’t forget your manners. A smile goes a long way. Why would anyway want to give you a better price if you’re being rude and nasty to them? If you can, try to engage in conversation with them. Some experienced hagglers will even go so far as to crack jokes or flirt with the person they’re bargaining with. Be firm on your reasons on why you want a lower price, while still being polite.
Make sure you have a cutoff price in your head. Consider what would be the maximum price you’d pay for an item, and be prepared to walk away if the seller doesn’t meet it, or go lower. If you do walk away, consider the timing. If you walk away too soon, then the vendor will think you are really not interested. Hang around too long and the vendor won’t take you seriously.
Other effective methods are to pretend to call on the phone to a significant other to get their ‘approval’. Make it sound like you want the item, but the person on the phone is not sure about the price. If you really can’t get the price down, try to negotiate a free item with the price.
Don’t get yourself frustrated when bargaining for items. After all, you’re visiting Southeast Asia to enjoy all that it has to offer, aren’t you?