Weird things are for sale out there and making them yours for a good price takes some courage and finesse. Luckily, haggling is a part of every culture and only those afraid to bargain get gypped. OTP is here to beat the sissy shopper out of you so you can bring that beautiful frog skin wallet home for mom at a fraction of the Philippine peso.
Pre-Game Like the Locals
Face it, no one's buying that you're a local; but knowing a few key phrases in the local language will open the cheap shopping flood gates. Direct a dismissive wave of the hand with the phrase, "Que ya!" at any Latin American vendor and watch the asking price drop. The phrase "fill mish mish," Arabic for "not in this lifetime," can help you haggle a few bucks off an item in Morocco. Depending on where you are, using antiquated local currency can also land you a better price. In Montenegro, for example, score some dinars and save your euros for victory beer.
Keep in mind that vendors are like hungry hawks and a shopping tourist is their wounded prey. They'll be watching you from the moment you enter the market, sniffing for weakness. So, put on your best scowl, get focused and stay sharp. Most importantly, know how much you are willing to spend before entering the playing field -- and don't be afraid to walk away.
Haggling is like dating. You have to romance the vendor a little before you get the goods. However, no never means no in this deceptive relationship. Wink, smile and nod as you talk up his treasure, then "psshhh!" at what he says it costs. Once he's drunk off your haggling charm, take it all the way home! Know that his starting price is always at least twice as much as he's willing to sell an item for, and level the playing field by offering half of what you're down to pay. He'll "psshhh" right back at you before coming down a bit; it's a cock-off until you both agree. If your maximum price is $10, have a Hamilton handy in your front pocket and give those dolla dolla billz a little wave before turning to walk away: Entice to lower the price.
OTP Tip: Don't let the vendor know which item you really want. Feel out his particular bargaining style while you practice your skills on something you're not really interested in. Then, make the move for what you really came for.
OTP Pro Tip: Offer him half the asking price minus one. Since half is the expected counter-wager, going one lower shows you know the game and mean business. He'll either be impressed by your showmanship or think you're a jerk.
Jedi Mind Tricks
A skilled vendor will tug at your heartstrings or mess with your head to gain access to your wallet. Stick to your plan regardless of whether his 15 daughters need braces. Even if your new vendor buddy puts his arm around your shoulder, serves you tea and tells you stories he's never told anyone, you don't owe him nothin'. If you find yourself agreeing with him when you initially didn't, take a step back for some fresh air. Chances are whatever you want will still be there once you return, this time with ice running through your veins.
Playing Hard to Get
When it comes to haggling, sometimes lying is the best policy. "The guy down the block o'er there has this same exact thing for three bucks cheaper. Should I just go buy it from him?" If the vendor acts like he could care less about your imaginary vendor friend and you're convinced this is the only chance of scoring the goods, try pointing out all the item's flaws. "I can't pay more than $10 for this. It's practically broken!" Buying in bulk adds leverage, too. If you have extra room in your pack, the ole' two-for-one haggling trick can get you what you want. Once you're both winded from the bargaining boogie, the final step is to look the vendor straight in the eye, lay down your final offer and shut up. Let it linger until he either gives in to your offer -- or you cave and buy the damn elephant statue for thirty cents more.
Seal the Deal
No matter how intense the haggling showdown gets, it really shouldn't last more than a few minutes. Don't overstay your welcome at the market by being too long-winded. Remember, vendors probably talk amongst themselves (in a language you don't understand) and burning a bridge with one guy might result in a series of broken bargaining relationships, setting the whole market ablaze. If you can't negotiate a price fairly quickly, move on. If haggling is turning you into a wretched hag, then figure out another activity for the day. It's not worth stressing yourself out over trinkets that you will forget you wanted by the end of the day anyway.
No matter what you do, remember that the word "foreigner" is tattooed on your forehead. Long-standing stereotypes of Westerners being walking cash cows are not changing anytime soon, and for good reason. Even with our economy in the crapper, we're rich enough to travel to their country and spend our money shopping. In the end, the whole haggling experience is a foray into some pretty authentic local culture; saving some cash while snagging cool stuff is icing on the cake. So, take your tea, laugh at his jokes and don't give in without giving a little hell first.
-- Lorenzo Ramos