Are you a haggler?

If you have traveled to the Caribbean, you have undoubtedly purchased a souvenir during your trip from one of the tourist traps or local markets to bring home with you.  Did you pay the asking price for your item or did you try to haggle with the salesperson to see if you could get a better price?  In most instances you can almost always get the price down from the asking price by as much as half, if not more.  These are a few of the rules I have learned along the way to help me learn the art of haggling and get me a better price on my purchases.

Rule # 1:  NEVER pay the asking price.  It is not like here in the US where if you walk into a Wal-Mart and tell the cashier you’ll give her $10 for a $20 jacket she will laugh hysterically then show you to the door.  With the tourist shops, local markets, and beach vendors they expect you to haggle with them for a lower price.  I promise you if you pay the asking price, as soon as you walk away, “Sucker” will be running through that vendor’s head because you just made that sale a whole lot easier for him.  Even if you think the price he is asking is a fair price, still offer him less because that is what he is expecting you to do.

Rule #2:  NEVER be the first to offer a price.  Always ask the vendor first what they are willing to take for the item so you know where your starting point is.  Often times items will not have a price listed just for this purpose.  The price is always negotiable.  If you offer a price first, you may offer much more than they would have suggested in the first place.  This also will give you an easy way to establish your flexibility with the vendor.  If they offer you a price and you tell him it’s too much and hand it back, he will know your ready to haggle and start offering lower prices.  This leads me to rule #3.

Rule #3:  Always be willing to walk away.  You can never fall in love with an item so much that you just have to have it.  Moreover, you can never show how much you want an item.  If you let the vendor know how much you are interested in making the purchase, it could seriously put a damper on your haggling strategy.  On my honeymoon in Jamaica, there was a vender that came to our resort one evening selling animals carved out of wood.  There was a large turtle that I really, really wanted, but the asking price was just too high.  I was able to bring him down a little, but ultimately I bought the small turtle instead as the price for the large one never came down to what we could justify paying.  Afterall, we were newlyweds.  We had no money then.

Isn't he cute?!

Rule #4:  Always carry cash for purchases.  Aside from the possible implications that paying with a credit card in a foreign country such as this could have, paying in cash greatly increases your chances of a successful haggle.  On our last trip to Mexico, my son wanted a straw, Dick Tracy-type of hat.  The hat had been sitting out on a rack with others in the sun day after day and so if was faded and dusty, but my son was determined to have it.  When the vendor told me what the price was, I told him I didn’t think it was worth that based on the condition that it was in and I offered him half off.  He walked away as if he needed to consult with his boss before accepting my offer (sales tactic) and came back saying he couldn’t sell it for that.  I said, “Thanks anyway” and started to walk away when he offered me a few more prices that still were not low enough.  As I walked away again he told me if I paid him in cash he could do it, but not with a credit card.  My son looks very cute in his Dick Tracy hat.

These rules can be applied not just to purchases, but also to excursions and tours, hotel upgrades, food and beverages, just about anything.  It never hurts to ask.  The worst thing that can happen is that they tell you no.  As far as I know, asking is not illegal in any country that I am aware of.  So give it a try and see just how well you can sharpen your haggling skills the next time you vacation.  Just make sure you are always polite and respectful.  Make it a good experience for both you and the vender.  Not only will you have fun stories to share with family and friends about your purchases, but also about the fun you had haggling to make them as well.

I hope this was helpful for you next vacation.  Come back and tell me about all your haggling experiences.  I look forward to hearing them.

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