I love haggling and consider myself proficient. It is an essential skill for those who travel to the more exotic places around the world. To many Europeans and North Americans are embarrassed to haggle over prices in shops. In a lot of countries you go to it is expected that you haggle.
My mistakes in Hong Kong
I have learnt from my mistakes. When I was 18 and in Hong Kong I wanted a camera. I knew how much it was in London so I had my bench mark price. I then went into different camera shops asking prices.. After a couple of hours I had worked out what shop was the cheapest. I went back and asked to buy the camera at the price they had offered.
The same shop staff total blanked me. 'No we never gave you that price it is this price'. Of course they had realised what this silly tourist had been doing. Because I had returned they knew that they had offered the lowest price and now tried it on to get a better profit margin. I was angry and again that played into their hands. They were the professionals at selling gadgets to tourists.
The lesson I learnt from that encounter was not to compare prices at different shops like you would do in Europe or America. Find a shop that sells the item you are after and haggle. Start very low and work up until you come to a price you are happy with.
Try to get over your embarrassment
I never let my wife haggle. She takes pity on the salesman and haggles up. She will ask the price. The salesman will say it costs 10 and she will say I will give you 12. Aaaarh I wanted to scream. You do not haggle up you haggle down. She just has not got it in her to argue over price.
The next tourist who wants to buy the same object at the shop will now be told the starting price is 14 thanks to my wife. If you are embarrassed about haggling let someone else in your group do it. If you are on your own force yourself to haggle.
The shopkeeper expects you to haggle. Do not be embarrassed. If you haggle properly everyone will be happy.
In the West we are used to fixed prices but in Africa, India and Asia haggling is the norm and expected. Everything is open to haggling even if the prices are clearly marked. Everything from the price of hotel rooms to cigarettes is open to haggling.
Using body language skills helps
I never try to show too much interest in the thing that I am desperate to buy. I wonder around the shop looking at other things first. Pick them up. Examine them and put them back before you pick up the item you are interested in buying.
Do not look keen as it will make the shopkeeper believe he has a certain sale and will not come down too much in price. Do not go out of the shop and come back later for the same reason.
Before you start negotiations decide what price you want to buy the item for. Express a casual interest in buying the object and ask how much. Now suggest a price a lot lower. The salesman will huff and puff about how you are taking food out of his baby's mouth if he sold it that low.
He will come back with a slightly lower offer than his first price. You then up your very low price slightly and he will exclaim that you are insulting him with such an absurd low price. He will come back with another price and so it goes on until you reach the price you want.
If the shop keeper will still not go down to that price WALK AWAY. This is one of the best tactics I have found. Time and time again the salesman has come running after me agreeing to sell me the item at the price I wanted.
They might still grumble about the price but it is all a show. If they do not then it is too expensive and just find another shop that sells the same or similar item. Keep cool and remember it is a game not a fight.
If you do get a very good deal do not feel guilty as no retailer will sell you any product less than what he purchased it for. He will always make a profit.