Friday, 20 May 2011

Haggling in Vietnam

When you are planning your holiday in Vietnam you may feel apprehensive about the 'no price displayed' style of shopping that's common in the markets in Vietnam and across Southeast Asia. Nearly anything without a fixed price can be negotiated, from souvenirs and clothing to guesthouse rooms and taxis.

When you've only known set prices, haggling can feel unsettling and it's easy to get worked up over the final price to later discover you argued for half an hour over the cost of a cup of coffee at home. If the price is generally cheaper than you would find at home then why shouldn't you buy it as you get what you want at a price you couldn't normally.

You need to know the social skills to aid you in getting what you want at the price you want to pay. Think of it as a game that you need to know some of the rules to play. 

Always smile to the vendor and a shocked look is great for showing you weren't expecting such a high price. Don't get angry as that helps no-one. Laugh at high prices and try and encourage the price in the right direction with good will and by building the relationship. This is a normal way of life for Vietnamese traders and they simply see it as a lucky day if they sell their goods at a higher price and they certainly don't wake up thinking "let's rip off a foreigner today." If you feel angry then just walk away. It can actually be a bargaining tool as the trader will react if he wants to continue with the sale. If you are not called back then they are not happy with the way things were working out as well.

Not many market vendors sell unique items so do ask to see what you're interested in but always keep in the back of your mind that you can get it elsewhere if the sale doesn't work out the way you hope. It's considered OK to look uninterested while being shown goods and to even point out flaws.

Knowing how much you want to pay and removing all other money from your wallet can work as showing you are willing to pay all you have - literally show your wallet contents to them - can show how willing you are to buy the goods.

Remember that almost all CDs and DVDs are pirated copies so the quality will not be as good as the real thing, hence the lower prices. Many stores can arrange for you to view some of the DVD before buying so you can make a more informed decision.

If you really dislike bargaining then don't do it. Ask the price and if you have the money then pay it. It's very likely you have a lot more than the person you're paying and it's also likely to be cheaper than you'd get at home. Don't worry about what others have paid for a similar item or service as that's not important. If haggling makes you stressed and unhappy then don't suffer.