Here are a few tips for bargaining in Latin America.
1. Get a feel for the merchandise before you haggle.
Before you even begin the process of bargaining, look around and decide on exactly what it is that you will purchase and from whom. It isn’t much fun wasting ten minutes bargaining and talking to vendors when you aren’t all that interested in the first place. Make sure it is something that you truly want. Also, be sure to have an idea regarding the quality of materials and craftsmanship. You don’t want something that will fall apart as soon as you get it home.
2. Know the merchandise and pricing.
If you get a chance, talk to a local person regarding the item you wish to purchase. Someone who knows the area, the crafts, and the prices will help you out considerably. They can help you identify when you are being taken for a ride. There are plenty of vendors who look to make a healthy profit from tourists who don’t know any better. It is always good to know a reasonable price range for the item you wish to purchase. If you know that, you’ll never get taken.
3. Be prepared to walk away.
This is perhaps the biggest key to bargaining in Latin America. Don’t ever let the vendor know that you view his or her item as a one-of-a-kind piece that you simply can’t live without. Always, and I do mean always, be prepared to simply walk away. If the vendor realizes that you understand you can get almost the exact same thing from dozens of other vendors just down the street, he or she will be more willing to make a deal. When a vendor won’t seem to budge on the price at all, simply start walking away. The price will usually be lowered. I’ve personally used this technique to great effect. However, don’t be greedy. There are times when vendors simply can’t go any lower.
4. Make your first offer as low as possible.
When the vendor first asks you how much you will give him or her for an item (usually once you express true interests), realize that you will be bartering between your opening amount and the amount the vendor is initially asking. Ask to pay what you feel is the absolute lowest amount you feel is fair for the product. You’ll usually end up paying something very close to halfway between the initial price and what you suggest. Also, do realize that the vendor needs to be compensated for his time and effort.
5. Meet the vendor halfway.
When a vendor simply won’t go any lower and you truly like an object, it may be worth considering paying the price asked. You may have reached the point at which the vendor just barely recovers his or her costs. Above all, just realize that a little compromise goes an awfully long way. That is the whole key to bartering, and the reason it is done in the first place. If you play your cards right, you will end up with a suitcase full of deals.