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Archive for February 2nd, 2009

Bartering

 

It tells time just as accurately as one would expect.

It tells time just as accurately as one would expect.

While traveling bartering can either be a chore or a fun exercise. When I was traveling in China I enjoyed bartering with the street vendors over small souvenirs and gifts. I know that others who went on a similar trip did not have such a good experience bartering as I did.

It really comes down to how it is done. If you are bartering to get the lowest possible price, at perhaps a loss to the merchant, they will probably cheat you in the end. Some people bartered down to the lowest price on some scarves in Tibet, the owner went back to wrap them up and ended giving them some dirty/ripped scarves instead of the new ones. However when I bartered I kept in mind that the merchants are just trying to make a living and a few dollars to me means relatively nothing while to them it can mean a lot. I just bartered to a reasonable price, never to the point where the merchant stopped smiling.

A key point I realized is that there was no language barrier in bartering. Instead of me using broken chinese or the merchants using broken english they simply had a large format Casio calculator where we input our offers back and forth. This way there was no ambiguity in the price.

Usually one of us would start with a basic price that was either half or double what the final price would be. Some general tips to help with good prices:

  • Look disinterested in the product or don’t show that it is exactly what you want.
  • Start looking at another merchants goods with more interest.
  • Try to bundle items together, like 3 for 100 monies instead of 2 for 40 monies.
  • Walk away.

The last one is really helpful. If you either know that the item is available elsewhere or you really are not set on it, start to walk away. It may be hard to do but it is part of the game of bartering. 

Also bartering at the end of the day could result in better prices if they want to move the products, on the other hand the merchant may have had a bad day or not want to barter with a traveler.

Always keep in mind that in the bartering is really just a game.

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