Bargain like a Pro

I would say that Indians are the best negotiators or bargainers I have ever encountered. They are incredibly good at going for your emotions, very comfortable with numbers, and know how to up-sell until the cows come home. As soon as an Indian shop owner sees a Westerner, his or her eyes usually widen slightly, get a little twinkle of a dollar sign and a big smile on their face and possibly will greet you with “welcome to my shop”.

As soon as you touch something, that signals to the shop owner that you’re interested. When you ask “how much?” (Hindi – Kitanaa) then the game is on. Almost always, the price will be 4-5 times what a local would pay. This is simply because, Indians believe that all Westerners are loaded with cash.

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Tips to bargain like a Pro!

  1. Start with an insanely low amount.  For example, if the shopkeeper quotes you 100 Rupees, you say 20 Rupees.  I know this sounds crazy (and you’ll feel awkward doing this), but just watch how quickly he’ll come down to 50 Rupees.
  2. Walk away with the 20 rupees quote, and don’t look back.  You will hear him (or her) shouting out lowered prices as you take each step away.  Most likely, the price he shouted out is still higher than what he is willing to sell at,  you could negotiate further.
  3. Some common things you can say when you make filler talk is “I’ve seen it sold lower elsewhere” or “I really like this item, I will come again and buy more“, or “I’ll tell all my friends at the hotel to come to your shop“.  Don’t feel like a fraud, as even the shopkeeper knows this is just filler talk to add time to the conversation, before a deal is made.
  4. Do not show too much excitement or emotion with the item you want to purchase.  You might absolutely “LOVE IT” and have already plans in my mind on how amazing it will look over the mantelpiece, but please don’t let the shopkeeper know that.
  5. If you have access to an Indian friend, or guide, you can get them to negotiate for you.  If you’re using a guide, keep in mind that travel guides have set agreements with shopkeepers, sort of like a finder’s fee, and they will earn a commission on the amount you spend in each shop that they take you to.  This also applies to hotels and restaurants… though usually there it is just free food and board.

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Fixed rate shops

If you prefer not to haggle, as too much haggling can get emotionally tiring.  Once you convert the amount you are haggling for into your home currency, you’ll find that you’re saving only a few dollars. And you might actually want to pay the poor shopkeeper what (s)he asked for without negotiating.

If negotiating is not for you, it is usually possible to find “fixed rate shops”, the items are just as good, and you can have a stress shopping experience.  The prices are marked reasonably, though they won’t be the lowest price you can get elsewhere.

MRP – Maximum Retail Price

In the United States, we are used to paying taxes that are added on top of the advertised price, i.e. the price listed on the item or the menu board.  In India, the amount listed is the final price, and these include all taxes.  This is the maximum retail price you should pay for the item.

It is good to look at these prices because often times store owners will try to add on to these prices when you’re not paying attention. Sometimes they may charge extra for chilled sodas, and charge you for that.  It’s up to you if you want to debate on that extra charge.

Shop around

If you have the energy and time, I highly recommend shopping around before making large purchases. This way you can get a feel for what the price should be and what is available especially if you’re looking for one of a kind items like jewelry. Conveniently shops are usually grouped together in a certain part of the market. E.g there may be 5 jewelers within a stones throw between each other. Similarly with electronics, fruit shops and sweets etc. Another part of shopping around is to buy a small item and bring to another shop to compare and get a “second opinion” on.


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