Guidebook Try to perfect the art of The Haggle

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Try to perfect the art of The Haggle

If there’s one golden rule to shopping in Vietnam, says Michael Aquino in Trip Savvy, it’s this: “bargain, and bargain hard.” But, he warns, “bargaining is an exacting discipline, and quite exasperating for the novice traveler who’s not used to the grueling back and forth.” Almost everything can be negotiated in Vietnam, notes Where In The World -- “and they’re just waiting for a sucker like you to bite at the first price offered.” And keep in mind that “while the Vietnamese culture is used to haggling prices, don’t haggle for the sake of it and not have any intention to buy the item. This is their livelihood.”

“I personally don’t like bargaining,” says John Hung in the Vietnam Economic Times. But the longer I’ve lived here and the more I’ve assimilated, “the more I’ve realised that it isn’t just about the money. Bargaining is more of a form of social interaction meant to create and sustain relationships.” Hung offers these tips for bargaining successfully in Vietnam:

Always, always bargain: “Unless you go into a supermarket or department store or unless there’s clearly a price tag, you should always bargain … for anything: souvenirs, food and drinks, anything you buy on the street or in the market, the cyclo fare, and even your hotel room. Be sure to agree on the price before the service is rendered, or else you’re responsible for the price asked.”

Smile and have fun: “The seller is more inclined to give you a better price if you’re friendly and making them laugh. Remember to relax, smile, and enjoy the exchange.”

Learn some basic Vietnamese: “Vietnamese people are always pleasantly surprised and excited to hear a foreigner speak their language. Learning a few phrases like ‘bao nhieu tien?’ (how much?), ‘dat qua’ (too expensive), and ‘giam gia’ (lower the price) will certainly help your cause.”

Research the market price: “It certainly helps if you have a rough idea of how much something actually costs. The internet and countless travel websites can provide you with the answer.”

Counter and continue to fight for two more rounds: “When you ask for the price, the seller will give you a ridiculously high price. The rule of thumb is to counter with 50% of the asking price. If it’s too low, you’ll be able to tell by the seller’s reaction. The seller will then proceed to give you a new price which will be closer to the actual price. Continue on for two more rounds of this back-in-forth and you’ll get the price your heart desires.”

The walk away: “If you’re not satisfied with the price or sense that tension is flaring, simply pretend to walk away. The thought of losing a customer will force the seller to succumb and give you the best possible price they can offer. Trust me, it works like a charm.”

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