In Asia, nothing says Kapital K Klassy like a tourist hell bent on bargaining the last shekel out of a deal with an itinerant t-shirt vendor only to open a wallet rammed full of high denomination notes then chortle loudly as he schleps back to his 5 star accommodation that ‘he’s not gonna get ripped off by some local just ‘cause he’s a tourist’.

Ah, yes, you are, and probably by as much as 300%, and it doesn’t actually matter anyway because the t-shirt you just bought was the same price as the beer you just skulled and the beer serves only to be turned into urine, whereas the t-shirt will keep your substantial girth out of everyone’s face.

If it were possible, I’d buy the t-shirt a beer and the vendor a gold star.

There are behaviours that take place in certain towns and cities renowned for their seasonal populations that would literally lead to, at least, public humiliation and, at worst, arrest and possible jail time in the offenders home country.

Bargaining for the best deal is not a crime. But it can make certain people behave like thieves, and I am not talking about the ones doing the selling.

The truth is that in Asia if you DO NOT engage in a bit or bartering the locals might be offended. It is almost a bit of a sport.

The amount of ‘fat’ built into a starting price depends on the country and the season. In some places the first price given is as much as 4 times what you might settle on, but paying about half of what you are first told, or even a third is often about right.

You can tell when the game has gone beyond its limits, because the seller will simply lose interest. If they start getting belligerent, walk away.

They do not want to play and you have pressed too many buttons. Game over. Try another stall along the way, you’ll always find someone new to play with, only next time, don’t play so rough.

If you get a smile after the transaction, congratulations, they have made a profit, and isn’t that what business is all about?

It’s highly unlikely that you would want to sit out all day and/or night selling something or another for free.

Why would anyone else?

Of course, no one actually wants to feel like they have been taken advantage of, and no one here at My Grey Nomads thinks you should, but by the same stretch, if you’ve just spent 20 minutes of your life knocking a dollar off a pair of flip-flops

(thongs, jandals, slippers, whatever) then you should probably call your favourate deity and ask for your money, and that part of your day, back. Do you work for 3 dollars an hour? ‘cause that’s what you’ve just charged yourself out at.

By the same token, if you are buying something knock-off or fake or pseudo, and you think you are being treated unfairly, perhaps you would like to write a letter of complaint to the intellectual property rite holder/ designer of that particular brand of handbag and express your dismay at what you’ve just had to go through. I’m sure they could do with a laugh.

The same thing goes for services like massages and taxi drivers, local artists and tattoo parlours. Recently on an expat forum I read a discussion about the price of a local tattooists work. Someone had paid X amount and the obviously bored, and possibly inebriated readers of said forum, entered a debate as to how much was too much for a tattoo. The question is, with something that permanent, are you looking for the best price, or someone you think will do the work properly?

Just as Ladies Nights at bars tend to bring out the best/worst in cheap women, bargaining down a tattoo artist to his/her lowest margin seems a bit like washing your hands in a puddle because it’s all just water anyway. It might be OK. It might lead to you losing some fingers. Only time will tell.

The Golden rule when it comes to getting a fair price in Asia is that if you are the very first customer of the day, or the very last, you will get a better deal. An early start with a happy customer is good luck, just as a sale to finish out the day will leave everyone heading for home in a happy state.

If you are worried about being fleeced, ask the concierge at your hotel, or people staying in the same accommodation as yours. They are on your budget and they may have been there longer. When you stop and have a coffee somewhere, ask the wait staff (you might need to use sign language and a bit of paper and a pen for this one) how much they would pay for the thing you want. If your server hesitates, know that they are building in a margin for the market vendor. Everyone has an Aunty or and Uncle who works in town, and you might end up visiting their shop. Be OK with that. It’s OK to pay 10% more because you are at least 10% richer. Really, it is.

And always remember the other great Golden Rule, you get what you pay for. If the deal of the century is ‘genuine rubies’ for 30 USD a piece, you are buying glass. And unless you really know your rubies, you might pay 3000 USD a piece and STILL end up with glass. SOME people sell genuine antique Ming Vases in Night Markets, they are rare to find. Wild wooly mammoth rare. Do some research. That’s what the internet is for.

At the end of the day, when it comes to the art of bargaining, if you are happy with the price, and you feel that you have gotten value for money, and you like the item, pay an amount you feel is fair and walk away happy. If you decide it is too expensive for what you want and you walk away and forget about it, guess what? You probably didn’t really need it anyway.



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