My favorite blankets, rugs, and trinkets come from markets and shops from around the world. As a bargain-babe, I always hope to walk away from a souk or flea market with something unique. And I always try to get the best deal for my money.
Here are some negotiation strategies and bargain-hunting tips that helped me to get the lowest price at the market.
#1 Do Your Research
Before you hit the market streets, try to do a few things to give you the upper hand when shopping. Find out what's popular in that region and determine what you'd be interested in. Research those items, understanding the price range & options of the items. I like to have an idea of what's a reasonable price and determine what I'm willing to spend on it.
Before my trip, I researched how to buy pure argan oil in Morocco.
I took my time sampling and smelling different argan oils and carefully examined their characteristics and quality. I even compared various prices and packages to decide which one seemed the best and most authentic to me. Eventually I purchased raw, authentic argan oil from a clean shop in the Jewish quarter of the medina in Marrakech.
#2 Don’t Buy at the First Shop
I don’t like buying from the first shop because I haven't gotten a sense of the prices or quality of the goods in that market yet. When I'm looking for the best price, I also try not to buy at the shops closest to the entrances/exits of the market.
Those shop owners are likely to have the highest prices. And often rely on the fact that you haven't compared prices or you struck out at another shop and you’re desperate to buy the item before you leave the market for the day.
I recommend shopping in the middle and at spots with less traffic
for a better deal on commonly found items.
#3 Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away
My friend and I took a tannery tour to understand how quality leather is produced. We discovered that the process is long, involved, stark and smelly. (I recommend tipping extra for the nana leaves to mask the stench.)
For the final leg of the tour, we were led to a showroom displaying any leather and craftsman product you could want… jackets, bags, poufs, hand-woven rugs, and other authentic décor items. Although I showed interest in the leather poufs, we decided not to buy when the salesman told us the price.
I said, “Thank you, but no thank you”, gave my friend the “let’s go” look, and began to leave, the posh salesman called me back.
#4 Be Considerate
I told him that I liked the pouf, but I didn’t like it enough to pay his original price of $230 or second offer of $125. He asked how much I’d be willing to pay for it after he told me that women hand-stitched the best quality materials for hours. Of course I wanted these women to be fairly compensated, but I wasn't willing to pay what he was asking.
I responded, “I have to respectfully decline. I don’t want to insult you because what I’m willing to pay does not reflect the true value of the work and materials of this product.”
Of course I want a great deal, but I also know that these folks have families to feed too. I was honestly ashamed to counter with a lower price, so I hoped that if my offer was too low for him to reasonable accept, then he would end his pursuit.
Pro tip: Merchants are usually willing to take as low as 50% of their initial offer in a market, but start in the middle.
#5 Throw Something Else in to Sweeten the Deal
I knew that I had the advantage because he was still negotiating with me. In the case of the poufs, we went from $230 to the lowest I would pay for one, which was $40. He responded by asking what I would pay for 2. Now we were getting somewhere!
Try including a lesser item for the same price or
asking for a discount for purchasing 2 or more of the items.
I told him that I would pay $70 for 2 leather poufs. Naturally he was mad because $70 for 2 is lower than my original $40 for one. He was wearing me down and I didn’t want to keep going back and forth. I told him that I would be spending more money than I originally wanted by buying two and that deserved a discount. It was my final price, so take it or leave it.
He stepped away to speak with his manager and came back with a hard look on his face.
“Done. Two for $70.”
My friend and I looked at each other in shock,
as I was now the proud owner of two Moroccan poufs.
#6 Shop During Off-Peak Seasons
When he came back to wrap up the poufs and give me change, he confessed that the summer months are a slower time for them. Most of the tourists buy in the winter, and he had to accept anything because it was better than nothing.
We could tell that he was not happy with the sale, but shopping in the low season, in addition to the hard bargaining tactics, got me a great deal on those leather goods. You can also get things like luxury accommodations for bargain prices and cheap flights in the low season.
#7 Ask A Local For Recommendations
The way things ended with the pouf salesman, I wouldn’t suggest trying this with him. But once you find a person or a shop that you trust and have established a good rapport with, have them refer you to a shop that they frequent. Odds are, if you trust them, they’ll do business with other trustworthy people. I even had the best fish of my life in Agadir when we stopped and asked a local for recommendations.
On another occasion, while Jeremy shopped for turbans, I asked the merchant’s son for recommendations on good oils and natural incense. He said his uncle had a shop with all of that and led the way.
I followed and they took care of me like I was a part of the family.
He offered his expertise on accessing the quality of crystals, oils, and incense. I trusted him so much that I tried and purchased the argan oil bulk, from a large jug. Call me crazy or call me adventurous, but my previous research led me to believe that it was genuine, pure Moroccan argan oil.
**I'm not advising you to buy your argan oil from an unmarked jug. Please use discernment when purchasing any topical or ingestible item from a market, being mindful of whether it’s sealed or not.
#8 Be Respectful and Gracious
It’s truly a privilege to travel the world and experience the wonders of another culture firsthand. Try to be open to the new things that others can share with you. And remember to show courtesy and respect when interacting with people while you’re abroad.
The flea market isn’t the only place you’ll use this valuable skill, so it’s never a bad thing to learn how to negotiate.
If you have any of your own fool-proof haggling tricks, feel free to share them with me in the comments. I’m always open to adding more tools to my belt!
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