Ah, the subtle art of bargaining.
Some people are born to haggle while others feel they have no talent for it. But if you’re holidaying in Bali, it’s something you’ll have to do — it’s pretty much expected.
Bartering happens at markets, so don’t expect to negotiate down prices at the supermarket.
If you’ve never done the bartering dance, it can be a little intimidating, so here are some tips to help.
HOW IT WORKS
Essentially, bartering is when the vendor asks for too much money for an item, you offer much too little, and both of you go back and forth until you agree on a price somewhere in between.
When you pick an item you want, and ask for the price, the figure you’re given — often dubbed the “tourist price” — is significantly higher than what the vendor really wants. That’s why bartering is essential. Never, ever take the first offer.
DON’T LOOK TOO KEEN
The trick is to look cool and uninterested. You might be drooling over a particular wallet or jacket, but don’t let the shopkeeper know how much you want it. You’ll lose your leverage.
When you ask the price, and you’re given a figure, offer a price that’s much lower.
Some say offering half the asking price is a good guide. The point is, aim very low — it’s going to be a while until you settle on the price, so give yourself room to move.
USE THE ‘WALK AWAY’ TRICK
If you’re not agreeing on a price you’re happy with, use this tactic. Thank the vendor for their time, put the item down and leave. They may chase after you to give the final price — unless they really can’t go any lower. It’s called the “walk away” trick.
Another note: don’t take total advantage of the vendor, as they do need to make a living. If you’re scrapping over a few cents, it’s not worth it.
ONLY BARTER IF YOU’RE WILLING TO BUY
This is more of an etiquette thing. If the final offer from the seller is still unsatisfactory and you decide to walk away, that’s fine.
But for the most part, you shouldn’t engage in the big song-and-dance of bartering if you have no real intention of buying the item. It’s just bad manners and a waste of the vendor’s time.
Also, take the opportunity to buy more than one thing — it’s a little easier to barter if you’re buying a few items.
DO YOUR RESEARCH AND HAVE A PRICE IN MIND
When you’re shopping in a different country and trading with foreign currency, it’s hard to know the value of things. It takes a while to build that instinct for what’s a bargain and what’s a rip-off.
So if you want to get really clever about your bartering, arrive with a bit of prior knowledge about the prices of things you’ll be shopping for, and what you’re prepared to spend.
Spend time comparing prices at various outlets. Alternatively, online guides like this one from Roam the Gnome list items that are popular at Bali markets, from handbags and cosmetics to homewares and electronics, and what you should expect to pay. If they try to charge you more, tell ’em they’re dreamin’.
DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY
Bartering is how Balinese people shop and it shouldn’t be taken personally. It’s not an argument — it should be a fun, friendly exchange. Keep things light and don’t get aggressive.