Bargaining Dos and Don'ts
Prices are not always what they appear to be in the Spanish-speaking world, but it's important to know when and how you might get a discount. Generally, there is no bargaining in shops. However, in some places, you can get a discount of 10 percent or so if you pay cash rather than use a credit card. This 10 percent represents the surcharge the store has to pay the credit card company when you charge your purchase. On a large purchase, that 10 percent can be well worth a trip to the ATM.
In markets, however, bargaining is not only expected, it's half the fun of making a purchase. Bargaining reinforces the human relationship between buyer and seller, and in some countries is an important social exchange. Not bargaining, in fact, can be an insult to the vendor, implying that the merchandise isn't worth your time or effort or that you don't value the social interaction. On the other hand, it's equally important not to request an absurd discount for something. Reasonable discounts vary according to the value of the item. An expensive item might allow the vendor more flexibility in pricing. Inexpensive trinkets, however, might already be priced so low that you can only reasonably ask for a very small discount. If you buy multiple items, you can usually get a slightly better deal.
Your best strategies for bargaining are comparison shopping and being willing to walk away without the item. Vendors will usually enjoy competitive bargaining when they know you can get the same thing two stalls down, and will quickly get a sense of how serious a buyer you are. Vendors would usually rather make the sale than watch you buy from someone else. For this reason, it's best to comparison shop before you bargain for anything in a market. Then you can use the tactic of pointing out minor flaws and differences between your vendor's merchandise and the competition's. It's important, though, to have a very clear idea of what you are willing to pay for an item, and to decide beforehand whether you are willing to walk away if the vendor doesn't meet that price. Once your vendor has offered the lowest price, you should buy the item or leave rather than continue to haggle. At that point, further bargaining is inappropriate and considered rude.
There are a few different things you can say to test the bargaining waters. Listen to each example on Track 65 as you follow along in the text. Repeat each after you hear it.
If the vendor replies in the negative, the asking price is probably firm. If the vendor hems and haws but lowers the price, you can probably continue to bargain a bit. Keep in mind, though, just how much of a discount you are asking for. It's easy to get caught up in bargaining and not realize that the difference you are talking about is a few cents.
A bargain is called a
If you treat bargaining like a game and vendors like co-players, everyone will enjoy the experience much more. Bargain for fun rather than with the expectation of getting incredible deals.
Now practice your bargaining skills as you purchase a Talavera ceramic plate from a vendor in Puebla, Mexico.
Listen to the vendor and respond to each statement or question appropriately. (The test is not shown here because this is meant to be a more challenging exercise.) You can find a complete model dialog in Appendix D to compare with your ideas.