Happy Thursday! I was reading Done by Forty’s post on haggling and negotiating, which was not only an interesting post so do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-$200-but-go-straight-to-the-post-and-read-it, but also had a bunch of interesting and thoughtful comments. Like in most cases, I think delivery is everything – while some might be dogmatic when it comes to haggling, others can say it in a gentler way. I tend to be the latter, since I still want to get the most bang for my buck but it’s just not really in me to be emphatic. My dad, and sometimes B, tend to be the former and with their tough as nails attitudes, they tend to get the best deals, and sometimes at drastically reduced prices. While I do respect that, I also don’t like feeling like I made them feel bad in a situation, even though if they ended up getting more of my money, they obviously wouldn’t be so. I think Mrs. DbF and a couple other commenters said it best when the ideal situation is when both parties come out satisfied, so that it’s a win-win.
Anyway, a tangent was that Mr. DbF stated that he negotiates whenever he can, even if it means negotiating with the “impoverished in foreign countries selling their wares,” so that got me thinking – is it bad if I haggle abroad, especially in second/third world countries? I’m no stranger to haggling, but am I just some mean tourist if I try to haggle a price down even if it just means one or two bucks that would mean more to the seller than myself? I don’t have any tips or anything, but I do have a couple of pretty funny anecdotes from haggling internationally. To preface, I can’t remember what I wore on Tuesday let alone a trip that happened years ago, so my pricing might be off from what I remember.
Scenario #1 – The Frog That Ribbets
One of the places we went to in Thailand was the floating market, where people primarily sell their wares on boats. Our tourist guide advised us that the pricing here tends to be higher than normal rates, and to haggle. I don’t really collect souvenirs, but a middle-aged, gaunt man came up to me and started stroking a stick behind a wodden frog’s back, which caused it to croak and make a “ribbet” sound. He then busted out a mini-version that made a mini-ribbet sound, which sent me in cooing overdrive. He knew he had me, so he priced it at 80 bhat (less than $3 dollars). I then responded with 30 bhat ($1), to which he playfully winced at and said 70 bhat, to which I then firmly said 30 bhat, and, after a bit of back and forth, we settled at 50 bhat.
In that case, I came out $1 “ahead” of his original asking price, but I regarded it more as haggling for playful banter’s sake, rather than really trying to come out ahead $1 richer. Perhaps I should’ve given him the asking price since it really is just a dollar (I mean, I did come with a tour guide and all), but I think in a “haggle-approved” area, it was more for the spirit of it rather than getting the best price. I viewed it like playing mah jong or poker at family parties – it’s always that much more fun even if you’re playing for quarters, rather than just for merely playing. Plus, not only did it end up just being one more thing to dust, but when we went back out to the main streets, I saw it priced at 30 bhat. So in this case, it felt like he came ahead.
Scenario #2: Taxi in Costa Rica
During a vacation to Costa Rica, one of the places we visited was a little city that had a view of the Arenal volcano. We ended up staying in the Arenal Observatory lodges, which is one of lodging places closest to Arenal but is a bit of a distance from the main city. In order to get there, we had to take a taxi, and he was charging something along the lines of $30 (they accepted USD, I believe). Knowing that taxis “should” be cheaper in Costa Rica, and that it was only a few miles away, we replied $10, and after a bit of back and forth and us starting to make our way to another driver, it settled to around $15. During the ride, he also played tour guide and pointed out different things along the ride, even kindly stopping at a really great view of Arenal so he could take our pics. The experience was worthwhile so I ended up giving him a $5 tip, and he advised the lodging office of who he was since we agreed we’ll call him for a lift back. So the next day, we called him, and he said that he would drive us… for $35. At that point, we were stuck since taxis weren’t lined up like they were in town, and since we were pressed for time to meet up at a tour, we only managed to haggle $5 off.
In retrospect from that whole process, I did feel a bit crummy the first time I haggled (especially since he was so kind during the cab ride), but thought it pretty much came full circle during the second cab ride when he had more leverage to stick it to us. By that point, though, since he was so nice and a cool person, I also didn’t feel the least bit ripped off, and actually thought “touche!” when he first told us the price. So in that respect, I think both parties were essentially a win-win.
So all in all, I don’t think it’s essentially bad to haggle even if one is traveling in a country that’s less well of than yours. For the most part, because you’re a tourist, I do think they hike up prices, so it’s only reasonable to haggle (especially in areas where it’s pretty well known/acceptable to haggle). I do admit, the only times I haven’t haggled was with little children, especially if they make an attempt to run after me and insist I buy their embroidered cloths which will help keep my tortillas warm – if that doesn’t warm your heart, then you pretty much have no soul. Otherwise, I think it’s pretty fair game, even if just for the “fun” of it.
What are your thoughts or experiences on haggling abroad?