Featured Photo: Divesh Tanwani
In Article Photo: Ruksana Narang
So now that you know all about the markets in Bangkok, let’s get to the fun bit, the bargaining and haggling! As much as we all get annoyed, we secretly love it. Lets face it, every time you’ve scored a good deal (at least that’s what you think), you feel on top of the world, like you’ve won the war… until you walk to another shop and find the exact same item for half the price. It’s happened to me before too, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Some of us just aren’t born to bargain. But I’m a local, so I had to learn fast otherwise I’d be getting ripped off left, right, and centre. Here are 10 things I usually do, and it works!
- Watch someone else first: You can learn a great deal by observation, so see how other people are interacting with the shopkeepers, and take a mental note of what worked for them that you might want to try out!
- Look around: There are way too many shops at the markets that sell similar items, if not exactly the same items. So spend some time looking around. If you want to bargain like a boss, you can’t be lazy about it. Do your research before making the purchase.
- Act nonchalant: If something catches your eye, don’t get all excited and tell your friends about it. In fact, do not show your excitement at all. Pretend like you’re not interested. The more interest you show, the higher the starting price they will quote, and the more you’ll have to bargain down, which can be difficult!
- Bargain Down 20% – 40% from the asking price: Bargaining at 40% will take some guts and you might royally piss off the shop owner, and she/he will make a scene, or might just laugh in your face. Stay firm, if you believe in your asking price and don’t let them get you off your game!
- Ask for “Thai Prices: If you can manage it, do not come off as a tourist, but rather an expat. If you ask them for “Thai Prices”, which means you are requesting them to quote you the prices they would quote the locals, they might consider you an expat with a better understanding of the Thai market scene and price range. Also, you might want to pick up some useful Thai phrases that you can use while bargaining. This will make you come off more like an expat than a tourist!
- Bulk purchases: Now, if you really like the variety offered at the specific shop, then you might want to make a bulk purchase. Remember, the more you buy the lower the prices become. If they don’t lower their prices, something is off in the deal that you’re making.
- Practice your smile and have a sense of humor: You want to come off friendly and nice, but not overly nice because then that can back fire. Make a personal connection with the shop owners, and joke around with them. The more they like you, the less likely they are you rip you off! Treat bargaining like a fun activity, and don’t stress yourself out!
- The walkaway: This is sometimes a hit and miss for me. The walkaway only works when you show them that they only reason you are not purchasing it is because of the price. If you don’t find a way to indirectly communicate this, they will assume you’re just not interested and not follow you. The aim is to get them get them to lower their prices for you, but do not expect them to actually follow you, as its not so common in Bangkok.
- Be prepared to really walkway: Sometimes the walkaway does not work, and the prices you want, might not be attainable from that specific shopkeeper. So really be prepared to walk away. Remember, there are many stores that probably sell exactly what you are looking for. This is Thailand, and everything is same same, but different.
- Most importantly, know when to haggle: You do not want to haggle with the street food vendors. They will quote you fair prices, just like everyone else for the food, and their prices are usually listed. Negotiate only with shop owners selling items of clothing, artifacts, paintings, etc that you see in the markets, but never mess with the food vendors! Also, know which shopping malls you can bargain at, and which not. The indoor malls without big brands are “bargain friendly”, e.g. MBK, Platinum, Panthip.