Yes, bargaining is skill, an art. You either know it or you don’t. While other skills might take you years to develop, bargaining is something you can learn instantly and if you are planning to come to India, is a must learn. Travelers coming to India often find themselves paying far more than what they are supposed to. Why? Well, It’s India you can buy anything off the streets of India without bargaining and that’s the harsh truth. You need to know a simple fact. You would end up paying more not because the shop keeper wants to cheat you but because you didn’t bargain enough, Period. We in India bargain everyday for everyday things from Potatoes to a Porsche, everything can be bargained and is to be bargained.
Let’s assume you are looking to buy an Indian skirt. Remember bargaining in India is fun and is socially acceptable, you would not be insulting yourself or the locals by trying to Bargain. Let’s go Shopping the India way.
Take a stroll – If you find something you like don’t ever buy it from there in the first go. Look around, you would invariably find something better. Walk around, take a feel of the place, watch the locals, see how they bargain. Visit different shops, on the way keep on casually asking the price for the various thing but do not show keen interest to buy anything in particular. Keep you ears open, the prices would get dropped as you walk away after casually asking the price. Do ask about Indian skirts often to give yourself a good starting price. Come across as a person who is not there to shop but just to see the street market.
Don’t get too excited / Exchange rates– One of the biggest mistakes I see travelers committing is getting overwhelmed with the price. They find things way too cheap. Yes, it is cheap but you can get it for cheaper. An Indian top for Rs 500 sounds like a deal to you, after all its just $8 and you are tempted to buy it but wouldn’t it be a better if you can buy it for Rs 250. Remember how everything can be and must be bargained. So, while you are taking a stroll along the market don’t stop anywhere just because you find it super-cheap. Remember you are taking the stroll just to familiarize yourself with the market price, you haven’t even started with you bargaining campaign.
Crossing the enemy line – You have walked around the market and are now ready to enter the shop you want to buy from. You fell in love with the skirt the mannequin outside the shop is wearing and you want to get your hands on it. If possible try and walk in where there are other customers as well, going alone into a shop would probably not be the best choice. Once inside don’t show your interest in one particular piece and rather ask the shop keeper to show you Indian skirts in general and also other items. Don’t make them feel that you have already fallen for one and would pay anything for it. Seeing more than one piece makes the shopkeeper believe that you have a genuine interest in buying so he gets down to serious business.
Round one – Once you have seen a few skirts and think there is one in there which you would like to buy ask a few general question about the skirt, just to show you are really keen on buying it. “What cloth is it”, “Where does it get made” etc etc. This should set up the buy. The shopkeeper knows you are keen on buying and the only thing he needs to deal with is the Price. Now, ask for the price. Whatever comes as an answer from the other side put on a shocking face, “What !”, “How Much?” Even if you have heard him right the first time, ask him again. Act as if you know what the price is and are shocked to hear what he is quoting. You, might even want to follow it up with a question marked face “This is for Rs XX?”. You must come across as a person who knows India, who has bargained before and is well aware of the costs in general. In India, it’s a lot to do with the attitude. Be loud and clear to tell them “It’s way too expensive”, it might be the cheapest pair of skirts you have even bought but India is a good place to practice your acting skills :). The shopkeeper would definitely come up with excuses on why it’s so expensive, it’s all bullshit.
Round two – Tell them “I know what the price is and this is definitely not it”. Ask them whats their best price. This should get the ball rolling. You should be thrown with some reduced figures, if that happens you are on the right track. Even though the prices are getting reduced you still look surprised and nowhere close to buying. This would go on for a few times. You show need interest to buy but the price is the only hindrance.
Going in for the kill – I generally recommend not paying anything more than half of what was quoted initially. So if the reduced/best prices are still nowhere close to that mark just start to walk away, even if they are. Make a sad face and walk away. Walk away like you really mean it and the deal is over. Walking away is the best way to get the best price. Once you do start to make a move you would be asked your “best price”. Just tell him “way lower than what you are saying”. Try and not to tell what you expected price is until the last moment. If you haven’t got the deal till now then you fire the last bullet. You give them your best price. It’s your turn now. Again, I recommend starting with nothing less that one-third of the original price. This is generally good enough to get a huge reduction in price which would be closer to your buying price and closing the deal. Even if it is close to half the price, don’t buy it still you might get it for even cheaper. Still, keep on walking away, you don’t want to use the “walking away” only to get a good price but mean it. By now “walking away” should mean that you are about to leave or left the shop and looking to move on to another shop. This would probably be the time the last offer would come to you which should be the best price you can get.
Always remember bargaining in a part of the Indian culture and you are not offending anyone by doing it but rather truly taking a deep dive into the local life. Happy Shopping!