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Learn To Negotiate A Bargain

Updated on July 10, 2011

One of my more relaxing hobbies is ironically shopping.  I am the stereotypical woman who loves to shop for just about anything be it shoes or food!  If I find a great bargain that can't be passed by, I will buy it.  But, even better than finding great sale items is the joy of going to an open market and finding something I love and getting it at the lowest possible price.  It is empowering to know that I went into a shop and stood my ground and got the best price for a pair of jeans or earrings.  It didn't come easy for me to bargain over a price, but i finally refined the art of haggling!

Personal Shopping Experience

It was my first time in Jerusalem with a tour group and I was overwhelmed with all the neat objects to buy and by the persistence of the shop keepers trying to sell their goods in the Old City. There were so many choices, but I had finally narrowed it down to a pair of "Jesus" sandals. I knew I had found the perfect pair when my tour group was quickly walking by a shop that had a pair of leather strapped sandals sitting outside beside a sign that read "sandals: 35".

I saved the rest of the money I had brought with me on the trip, as I had already spent most of my money on jewellery. I waited excitedly for my free day from the tour group so I could go to the Old City and buy those shoes. I dragged my grandmother out of the hotel and all the way to the Old City, where we inevitably became lost. Suddenly, a sea of spectators was following me and my grandmother. Whether it was my tourist shorts (a definite no no in a Middle Eastern country), my American blonde hair, or just a combination of both, something had attracted the shop men to follow us.

The more we were followed, the more we tried to lose our audience.  We became so rushed to get ahead of the crowd that we became lost in a maze of shops.  We wound up, by some miracle, in a tiny little shop no bigger than a closet packed with "Jesus" sandals!

I turn to the shop keeper and express how much I love and want those shoes he had all over his shop.  I pick a pair that most closely resembled the pair I had seen outside the shop and asked, "How much are these pair of sandals?"

"Those pair of sandals are 55." He replied. Oh no! I didn't bring that much with me.  I had only planned for $35.  .

"Is that 55 dollars?" I quickly asked hoping it was in shekels.

"Yes 55 dollars!" The man's face quickly lit up like a Christmas tree.

I asked my grandmother to borrow the money as I did not have the full amount on me. She whips out her American Express card and asks the shop keeper if he would take a credit card. He grabs it out of her hand and heads out of his shop muttering in Arabic.

My grandmother's paled to a ghostly shade of white as she thought her credit card had just been stolen.  She ran as quick as 70 year old woman could to follow him through the maze. We once again lose all sense of direction, and wind up in front of an ATM machine in the middle of nowhere. My grandmothers card could not be used as it was a visa card and not a debit card.

After being dragged through another maze and back to his store, we proceed to scrounge the money up and pay for the shoes. I finally have my shoes and head back to our hotel.

The next day as we toured the Old City again, I found the shop that had the original pair.  Upon closer inspection of the sign it read: "sandals: 35 shekels."

Tips to Bargaining

The shop vendors in the Old City do make their livelihood off tourists and shoppers in the Old City. It is understandable why they charge more than the asking price as they have families to feed and to care for them. However, the fact they have families should not lead to overcharging. Here are ways to make sure you get the best bargain possible, wherever you maybe shopping in an open market.

Tip # 1 Never show interest in an object: If you walk into a shop and find something you love, do not make a big deal over the object. When I first started shopping in the Old City I would make a big deal over the things I loved. When you show how much you desire the object, it tells the shopkeeper that you will be an easy sell. He knows he can ask a higher price and you will buy it at the ridiculous price.

Tip # 2 Casually ask the price of an object: When you find the object you adore, causually ask the price of it as if it means nothing to you. Imagine you are looking at a speck of dust and are indifferent to this dust. You neither are upset it is there or happy it is there. After asking the price casually brush it off and place the object down.

Tip # 3 Always say the price is too high: When placing the object down, gently say that it is too expensive for you. Be careful in your tone as you don't want to sound aggressive or demeaning. This will notify the shop keeper of your interest and he will realize that he will be able to make a sale if he lowers the price.

Tip # 4 Always offer a low price: When the shopkeeper tells you to pay $30 instead of $35 tell him that there is no way you can pay $30 for the object. He will eventually ask you how much you are willing to pay. Offer the lowest price you think you can give him as a starting point. You can eventually meet the shopkeeper half way on the price.

Tip # 5 Never ever assume the currency: If you are in a different culture, don't assume the amount is in your currency. Assuming it is in your currency will inevitably lead to lose in your money, and no one wants that. It is important to know the conversion rates so when you are given an amount you can hand the proper amount to the shopkeeper. Also, you want to know the value of the local currency so you do not hand too much or too little.

Tip # 6 Use your noggin: G-d gave us common sense for a reason (lot of which I missed out on receiving). Don't let a shopkeeper try to lead you off into any strange places or anything as this is very dangerous to you.

Tip # 7 Always have cash on hand: Most markets work on cash only basis, and the ones who don't you probably don't wnat to hand your credit card or debit card too. Take plenty of money in the local currency and make sure it is small change. For example: if you tell a shop keeper you can only afford $20 and then pull out $100 trouble starts. It is much easier and simpler to always have small change, and you can always make sure the correct change is returned to you.

Tip # 8 If all else fails leave the shop:  Leaving the shop is icing on your cake when bargain shopping.  This move shows that even though you were interested you are willing not to buy the object at the price offered.  If the shopkeeper really wants to make the sale, he most always will come after you and say, "wait, let's make a better deal."  From this point, you can bargain a lower price.  But, you should only do this as a last resort and if you are sure of what you are doing.

These 8 tips helped me to enjoy my hobby of bargaining, and I hope they help you become a savvy shopper, too. There is nothing like relaxing after getting a really great deal!


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    • My Inner Jew profile image

      My Inner Jew 8 years ago

      yep exact same shoes, I never really ventured off into Mahane Yehuda. I ususally went there for my food only. I only shopped in the Old City when I had family over or were taking ppl there to shop...I didn't shop much for myself there, but for them to make sure they weren't too ripped easy in the Old City

    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 8 years ago from USA

      I hope we are talking about same type of sandals. The most common in Israel, genuine leather stripes with a thin sole? In any shoe shop (chanut naalaim) or Mahane Yehuda market..... Or Shook Karmel in Tel-Aviv.

      In general, some goods and soveniers as they sell inside the Old City you can find somewhere else cheaper. But of course, art of bargaining you will learn and practice better in the mazes of the Old City.

    • My Inner Jew profile image

      My Inner Jew 8 years ago

      I always found that the Aremenian and Christian Quarters were the cheapest and easiest to bargain with. I could get those shoes (the ones that are visibly better quality) for like 30 shekels. I never found them anywhere else....where did you find them outside of the Old City?

    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 8 years ago from USA

      Moral: stay away from Muslim Quarters....

      btw, I don't really want to completely discourage you, but the same sandals would probably cost from 20 to 25 shekels in a regular town market place. Old City has sky prices....for tourists....

    • My Inner Jew profile image

      My Inner Jew 8 years ago

      It wasn't so bad learning after awhile, I got some pretty good deals. The hard part was learning to read the shop keepers faces.

      I got in some pretty unsafe situations sometimes because I would go shopping in the Muslim Quarters and the men would try to back me into corners...but then i would run!

    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 8 years ago from USA

      So true about bargaining in a hot country....:) :) :)

      I've never learnt it thought....:( :( :(

    • My Inner Jew profile image

      My Inner Jew 8 years ago

      haha and it really works! The hardest part is not picking up somethign you love and squealing about how perfect it is...ok maybe not squealing but letting your face show how much you like it.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      WOW! Fascinating hub. I am so bad at bargaining, but I will certainly try to show no interest - at least I think I can pull that off, lol.

    • My Inner Jew profile image

      My Inner Jew 8 years ago

      Thanks! and it really does help, I have gotten many many great deals by using these techniques

    • andromida profile image

      syras mamun 8 years ago

      very useful tips.Next time I go for shopping I will show zero interest in an object.thanks.