Posted on 26/12/2012
You may be easily fooled by pricing customs
If you come from a country that primarily deals in retail outlets, supermarkets and shopping malls, then the concept of “pricing” is a relatively obvious affair. For example, you don’t walk into a supermarket, grab a can of string beans and then ask the person at the checkout counter, “What can you do on the price?” That type of question will only get you the type of look meant for those who have somehow made their way outside the grounds of the local mental institution. But this isn’t always the case. Sure, you can visit a flea market and haggle to your heart’s content and usually get some decent bargains. But the computer shop, in the mall, can only work within the salesperson’s commission. So, you might be able to secure a free printer to go along with the expensive PC that you’re purchasing.But that’s about it.
But here’s something interesting, the same concepts that got you the free printer may actually work to an even greater degree in the country that you’re going to visit. But the last thing that a shop owner wants you to realize is that haggling may be an integral part of their business procedures. If you’re shopping in a different country, and you are perceived to be a foreigner, the first thing that the seller wants to do is to get you to think that the prices are set in stone. This tactic actually cost me a bunch of money when I initially tried to do some shopping on my own in my new expat environment. And forget about taxis. There was no way I was going to get an honest rate when travelling without my wife, local friend or relative.
How to deal with shopping in places that you’re unfamiliar with
Here are a few tips from lessons that I learned the hard way. First of all, if you’re going to explore some territory on your own for the first time – stay close to home. In addition, find out from a trusted local source as to what you’ll be expecting to pay for transportation. Before you get into a taxi, or any other means of transportation, that isn’t strictly regulated (trains, buses, etc.), get the driver to agree with you on a quote – and stick with it (no extra “fees”).
If you’re in a marketplace, stand around and look at the merchandise for a bit. This will give you the opportunity to view a transaction or two performed by some of the locals. When you have ascertained the amount that people are expected to pay, then get what you want and hand the seller the exact change. Don’t ask, “How much does this cost?” Because if you are considered a foreigner and you don’t know, believe me, many marketplace dealers will be all too happy to invent a price for you.
Finally, if at all possible, go shopping with a local and pay attention. Ask a lot of questions and, in some cases, get to know the local merchants. They will be more apt to give you a good price if they know that they’ll run into you again – most likely with your wife, friend or relative the next time. They won’t want to lose your business while explaining to others why they cheated you when you were alone. These are just some tips than can end up saving you a bundle, while you’re getting the “lay of the land.”