Life, Culture and Travels from the perspective of a Cuban
Bargaining Tactics
Categories: XYZ

Every time I have to bargain I feel so frustrated. My poor skills or no skills at all take me nowhere. I am not the only one who thinks I am horrible at it, my friends and husband have confirmed that I really suck so I am not exaggerating. The first time I ever bargained in my life was in Cape Town. I was excited like never before to get to a real African craft market, where wooden bracelets and coconut earrings are sold way cheaper than in North America or even Cuba. I approached the seller and asked how much were the banana leave earrings she had displayed. She nicely told me a price that was like $3 CAN and my husband stopped me when I was about to take the money out of my bag. He managed to decrease the price in five seconds stating that we did not have enough money. I felt bad but from there on he helped me to get all the souvenirs in South Africa and I officialy started hating this whole bargain business.

This post is about what I know, not about what I really end up doing at the market. In theory, this is how I should behave and I am working on it.

First advice: I have to hide that I like a product so the seller does not realize that I really want to buy it. That is already difficult for me as I am a very expressive person. The whole ordeal of getting a good deal has just started.

Second advice is to drop the price of the item to half of the price the seller tells you or even less than half to make it really fair. Damn it! I just want to choose, to pay and to go. Why do I have to get into a whole uncomfortable conversation with a stranger? Isn’t better to spend time having a normal talk instead of this pathetic game?

When did purchasing become so complicated?

Now in Hong Kong, I have had enough of it but at least I do not feel guilty anymore when asking for a lower price. Anyways, if you do not bargain on this side of the world there is probably something wrong with you. It does not mean you are cheap or do not appreciate their merchandise it will mean that you are brave and smart, a street fighter, some sort of modern model to follow.

In Cuba, I am used to see that you only get a small discount if you buy two or more pieces. The seller knows that tourists have more money than Cubans and they will think that you are a stingy person if you try to bargain too much. They prefer not to sell you their craft at all. The mentality is totally opposite.

 Third advice, I have to learn to pretend that I am leaving (which I totally find a ridiculous act) or that I will come back later… Apparently, not caring if you lose the product will take you far. I managed to buy a purse for 140 HK when the price quoted was 200 HK. My husband thinks that I could have paid a 100 HK for it if I had rejected the purse and started to walk out of the shop.

Fourth and most important advice is to act fast and not to show insecurity. You do not ask questions, you say what you want, the price you are willing to pay and you do the bargain fast, clear and with a straight face. It might not get you the price you dream all the time  but enough times that you will be satisfied.

When you are a tourist you have no idea what the value of souvenirs are, you do not know if you are overpaying unless you do a little bit of market research. If you do not enjoy shopping or  you are in a hurry you are screwed, you might be paying thrice the price for a wooden fan. Tourists have a budget, they adjust to it to get a couple of souvenirs and want to continue with their lives. If the prices were listed and no bargain was allowed (a perfect situation for someone like me) one could quickly decide if the souvenir is what one is looking for or not. It is painful to go to the market alone, knowing that you have to face a strong seller.

If you are like me you will have less money for ice cream at the end of your trip. I think that I am learning very slowly but I still dislike the fact that I have to do it and it is a common practice in many cultures. The worst part is when the seller tells you that they have the best deal in town, that what he is selling cannot be found somewhere else or that they cannot drop the price more because they would lose money. Later, you see the exact same hoodie at a store being sold for the same price as the market. Disappointing.


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