How to Barter in Thailand
Bartering is a Way of Life in Asia, It Can be Fun for Seller & Buyer
There are a few rules to remember when bartering in Thailand, the most important one being - Keep Smiling. The second one is - Pay a fair price for the goods on offer.
It’s almost obligatory to barter when shopping in markets and from sidewalk stalls in Thailand, in fact, almost everywhere in Asia. Even in large department stores it is sometimes possible to get a discount if you offer to pay cash rather than credit card. Paying cash will nearly always get you something off even if it is only 5%.
If you are bartering in the markets and with sidewalk traders, or in large covered emporiums like Bangkok's huge indoor market MBK, there are a few things to remember before embarking on what is often a time-consuming exercise.
· Be firm, but don’t push too much. You are, after all, a fairly well-off tourist and the vendor is probably a small trader trying to feed his or her family. Not all stall-keepers own their stalls, they may work for someone and only receive a commission on what is sold.
· Pay a fair price for the goods. Decide what is reasonable for you to pay and then be happy with this. It’s a question of knowing when to stop, of allowing the vendor to feel he’s won, but knowing that you too have won. Bartering is a system where there can be two winners!
· Don’t be fooled by the vendor’s tales of a bad day’s trading, a family to feed and an aged grandfather to keep. Stand your ground, if you can, then walk away if your price isn't reached. If you are called back you’ve got your article. If not, go back and pay the asking price.
· The vendor will only sell when he's reached the price he needs, not before, so keep on bartering. It’s almost a game to some, especially when trade is slow, so learn to enjoy it, and never take it too seriously.
· Start at a third of the asking price, and, in the cities, expect to get between a half or a quarter off, more in the villages. Don’t hum and haw, state your price firmly right from the start.
· The vendor will frequently ask where you come from. This is because he or she operates different prices for different countries (the highest price is always for the Japanese who invariably pay way over the odds).
· Listen to other travellers bargaining and get an idea of the going rate. As above, ignore the Japanese who pay too much anyway, and ignore any Thais that are around because you will never get the same low price.
· Even when you are about to walk away, do so slowly. Never look as though you have closed the door.
· Don’t let a full wallet be seen before you start to barter.
· A few words of the language will help you appear more friendly. Always say thank you, Kop Khun Ka (if you are female) and Kop Khun Krap (if you are male) when you finalise your deal (or even if you walk away). If his last price is too much, then a smile and No thank you, Mai Ka (female) or Mai Krap (male) will soften the blow.
Keep a smile on your face at all times, never lose your temper, never be rude and never raise your voice in frustration or anger. This is very important in Thailand.
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