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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

How to Negotiate Anything Abroad

istanbul_marketYou can do this. Doesn’t matter if you’re filthy rich and can’t be bothered, for many goods and services in the rest of the world, you are expected to negotiate and haggle the price down. Not to do so would say something of your naivete, as well as make life difficult for the next stranger in town.

So do it. Here’s how.

Say that you need a taxi. They usually operate on a flat rate, or by the meter. Either way often approximatestaxi taking your life in your hands.

“Meter,” I decide with one shady-looking character.

“Okay, meter,” the guy responds.

We are speaking another language and I think I have forewarned him by my demeanor: no phony baloney.


But something seems wrong.

A couple of blocks later, I ask, “Where’s the meter?”

“Right here, madame, right here,” he points to the front left-hand corner of his cab’s windshield, nestled from view.

“Hmmm… generally the meter is in full view, by the middle console. I can’t see it there,” I observe.savvy-haggle

“Look, look, here it is,” and he reads the starting price which is accurate.

Sure enough, by the end of our little drive the meter is reading double what it should. I exclaim in surprise over the price he triumphantly announces, informing him in no uncertain terms that there’s no way this could be the price, which of course, he disputes.

I should have taken his license number. But I had places to go and was running late.

coffeepotIf I had gone with a flat rate, he might also try to quote a high price and told me to take it or leave it. We started our journey in a high-tourist area where, if I had turned down a ride, I might sit there for an hour or so trying to find an honest driver, and missed my appointment altogether. Sad but true.

Open-air market bargaining is a bit easier. You simply decide how much you like a certain item and what you’re willing to pay for it.

For instance, you see a Turkish coffee pot. They might try to convince you of its provenience/ provenance, where it came from that would make it more valuable to you: it’s old and historic, it’s new and fully functional. Doesn’t matter. Here are the steps you should follow: Feign disinterest. Turn your attention to another item for a minute or so. See how much that one might cost.
Then come back to your first choice.brass_pot01
Point out a few irregularities, dents, chips that would lessen its value.
Talk about whether the seller would accept Dollars, Euros, or the local currency. If you have not yet exchanged say, all of your Dollars, then you would not be losing on the difference in buying and selling currency where you always come out with less than when you started. Already, the seller is feeling the money in his hand.
Then offer half the seller’s price. Half-?! you say. Yes, half. It’s probably worth one-third, if that. You’re going to let him make a living because you won’t end up at half, believe me.
He throws you out of his store. He acts incensed that you would insult him with an offer of half.
You act understanding. You ask if he has something similar that would be more in your price range. He harrumphs and shows you some junk that should cost one-tenth of what you’re offering.
BargainingSay that you totally understand and start to walk away. Hesitate. Then keep walking.
You might be halfway down the street, but if he’s interested he will call you back. He is probably holding the item in a bag, already tied at the top, “Here, take it,” he motions, accepting your original price. Make sure that he has not pulled the old switcheroo on you and what’s really in the bag is the second piece of junk. Take it out of the bag or at least peek inside as though you’re confused.
Usually if you end up with a price of maybe 60-75% of where he started, you’ve got a decent deal. There are some days when I’m dead set on those margins, and other days that a smaller discount is okay. (And there are sometimes when I go blank and I totally miscalculate the exchange rate, so have a chart in your pocket or hand that you can nonchalantly refer to which ensures that you’re paying $5 rather than $50 for that local item…. I’ve been there.)
Take care that nearby sellers in the market don’t see when you get your great price for your great item. It haggling2can damage a seller’s reputation if they don’t scam 100% of their customers.
You have not taken bread out of his children’s mouths. You have not scammed him like he wanted to scam you— that would never happen. If he doesn’t want to sell, you must ultimately be willing to either pay his inflated price… or walk away.
But usually, they want the sale and you will end up with your item. He wants the sale and will never sell to you at a loss to himself. It’s a win-win situation, plus you’ve given him a bit of free entertainment for the day.

That’s part of what the marketplace is all about.


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