While in Thailand, I developed a style of haggling I call “inadvertent haggling.” The benefit of this style is it has worked for me every time without fail.
I call it the inadvertent haggle because I did it several times without intending to. I just couldn’t help it as a budget traveler. When you walk around with just a few pennies in your pocket, that’s all you have to spend. When you’re in a country where things mostly cost just a few pennies, and they expect you haggle, you can get away with haggling down to those pennies.
The simplicity of inadvertent haggling is to only carry what you want to pay for something, and then convince the seller it’s all you have to spend. It helps to pull out all your cash and coins. Many times I pulled out a couple dozen coins, adding up to only half of the asked price, and the seller gladly accepted them. Other times I left with how much I was willing to spend for the item I wanted, and that was accepted too. For the technique to work, you have to say how much you have or are willing to spend, and never go above that. Just keep haggling until they accept it, or walk away. Many times they’re accept the amount after you turn to leave.
The first time I used inadvertent haggling, I was at the MBK Shopping Center looking for a screen protector for my Samsung Galaxy S Tablet, which has a different screen size than other 10″ tablets. After quite a bit of searching, I finally found one for 400 baht (about €10). When I tried to buy it, the clerk wanted me to buy the top quality one for 650 baht. The only problem is I was looking for one around 200 baht, and didn’t even have 400 on me. I told this to the lady, and she said nothing for that price was available, but would sell it to me for 600. I repeated I only had about 300 on me, and she said 575. This continued for a while, until she finally asked to see how much I had. I pulled out everything I honestly had on me, which came out to 372 baht. After a moment’s pause, she accepted.
This happened several more times over the next two months in Thailand. It happened with street food and smoothies, clothes, trinkets, hostel rooms and even motorcycle rentals.
One night in Chiang Mai, I was walking around with a couple friends. One found a dress she wanted to purchase. It was 300 baht but only worth 200, and my friend could only talk the sales lady down to 250. We left, and I coached her into exactly what to say. We grabbed a bite to eat and then went back to try again. This time my friend pulled several bills out of pockets which added up to 200 baht, and said it was all she had. The clerk readily accepted the 200 at that point, but then found that the only dress left in stock was the one on the manikin. Since it wasn’t “new,” she gave it to my friend for 150! Can’t beat that!
The best I ever did was purchase a book of Angkor Wat in Cambodia for $2, after the person was trying to sell it for $25. I actually didn’t want the book, but the guy persisted for several minutes trying to sell it. I really only did have $2 on me, and the man kept lowering his price a couple dollars at a time until he finally accepted the $2.
I can’t say this method will always work for you. I can only say it worked for me without fail. There were a couple times when I did have more money on me and simply used this technique convincingly, after learning how successful it was. Sometimes it was just a couple baht less than what was being asked for, but other times it was more than half off the advertised price.
In a country that expects you to haggle, it’s good to know how to successfully haggle! Hopefully inadvertent haggling works for you.