Haggling is a normal practice in India. People haggle for almost everything. If you are Indian, you know how to do it, but if you’re tourist from a country where people don’t bargain, and that you are on holidays in Goa, or any other place in India, here are some bargaining tips to help you in your shopping.

A flower-hawker at a friend's place

A flower hawker at a friend’s place.

First, when you see something that you like, don’t jump on it, and say: “I love this! How much is it? I’ll take it!” The rule number one is to show no interest, especially if you crave that thing! Affect a blasé indifferent face to everything.

Don’t forget that it’s a game: If you’re with some friends, agree altogether in advance to play this game.

Look at different items, and then casually ask about their price, including the one you’re interested in. Notice the flaws of the item. The price the vendor will tell you will always be much higher than the one you could get the item for. So, then, nicely say that it is overvalued, and propose your price, about 2/3 lower than what the seller proposed. When you say your price, mention the flaws, even tiny defects, kind of “it’s dirty”, or you can also say that you saw the same in another shop, much cheaper, or that you don’t know if you really want it. Also, you can say that if he gives you a good price, you’ll bring your friends next time, or, if you’re interested in several items, say that because of this, you deserve a good price.

The vendor should lower the price, and then you can come to an agreement between one third and half of the starting price, sometimes less!!

Another thing that works well is to say that you’re going to think, or say that you want to compare with other shops, and that you may come back. It’s worth when what we want to buy in expensive.

Then leave the shop without buying. Yes, I know, it’s hard sometimes!! However in doing so, you can have a good surprise. A customer who leaves is a lost customer. So, there’s a great chance that, as you’re leaving, he lowers the price if he didn’t do it enough before, and he can even wait for you to be in the street to catch up with you and propose the last price.

It happened to me sometimes and also to some of my friends: between the starting price and the final one, there was a more than 50% and sometimes 75% reduction, especially at the end of the tourist season.

The first time it happened to me, I thought: “What a swindler!”, but then, I realized that this is the way of doing it here. It’s like a game, a power game, a relationship game, so, it should be taken with humor.

When you get your last price, either buy or go in other shops and compare. Then buy in the most advantageous one.

colourful market scene in Cuncolim, in South Goa, India

Market in Cuncolim, South Goa.

Another bargaining tip is to have a little notebook to write down the prices, because the cost of living is completely different here than in the “western” countries. It will help you to remember prices.

When tourists arrive here for the first time, they have no idea of the prices. The sellers know that, and many take advantage of the situation. So, beware!

Another good bargaining tip is to learn the numbers of the country you’re in. In Goa, India, learn them in Konkani and in Hindi, so that you can understand when the seller tells the price to somebody else in the market for example. My experience is that people are usually fair in the market (food market), but not always! You can also wait for somebody to buy something, so that you can see how much money is exchanged.

Let me give you some other haggling tips: There are some situations where you can bargain and others where you cannot.

For any rental, the longer you rent, the less you pay, proportionally. You can haggle in these situations.

You haggle in all the tourist shops and with hawkers in the beach.

You haggle in the markets or when you want to take a taxi or a rickshaw, and also in some specific cases in shops when the article, for example a book, shows a defect.

But you don’t bargain in groceries, restaurants, pharmacies, and in situations where it’s mentioned that the rates are fixed, like pre-paid taxis.

I know, it’s really different from western countries where hardly anybody haggles anymore. To know how to bargain is an art which requires humor, patience, the love of shopping, and a tiny “greedy” side or being broke!

I hope you’ll enjoy the game! Personnally, it drains me! 🙂