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I spent 20 years punching a time clock... then decided there had to be another way. Right now I'm sitting in a comfortable chair on a beautiful beach. There's a sweet, soft breeze in the air. In front of me, on the clear blue water, a boat drifts by. Maybe I'll go snorkeling this afternoon, or work on my tan. This is my kind of tropical paradise... cheap and unspoiled!
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Bargaining in Asia    

By Ken Silver About Asia
2680 Views | 4 Comments | 1/25/2012 2:44:50 PM

Were you born with a price tag on your head? Neither is anything else in this world. Not hotel rooms, not meals, not rentals of any sort. Not elephant rides, not scuba courses. Not even the price of fixing an election has a natural, fixed price tag on it! Welcome to tropical Asia, where everyone knows that but you.

In the First World, where they believe all kinds of odd things - for example, a man should only have one wife! - price tags are considered invariable, and fixed. Hey, western man, even the sun moves in the sky!

Some things are a bit risky to argue about, of course. A visa might be quietly negotiated or issued in a back room between trusted parties, but not up at the public counter. In Asia, honest officials do not accept bribes from strangers. There must be a trusted third party to vouch for the honesty and integrity of both parties to the deal. He of course gets a cut of the "tea money" involved.

Everything else is a matter of open debate. Generally, I'll pay 40% to 60% of "souvenir" or "everyday necessities" items. An elephant ought to be able to get such items for 70% of asking price.

There is a school of thought - originated by the liberals at Lonely Planet books - that a dollar means more to a third world vendor than it does to you. Dunno bout that!

Unlike a chess or judo match, you should never make the first move, that is, quote the first price. Let the seller establish the level of absurdity. Whatever he says, ask for 40% of that. You and he will go back and forth. How do you know when he will sell at your price? When he starts asking for a dollar more over your price "just because". Because we are friends, because his grandmother wishes to sing karaoke. Because you are a rich tourist! In other words, when he has no more arguments about the product and is switching gears, hoping to catch you in your moment of triumph.

Why should you pay one penny more than necessary to a vendor who has tried to cheat you blind???

Of course, there are often complications. Constantly bargaining across a continent is wearying...

Often, your hotel clerk opponent has been bored for hours, hoping a prospective guest will come through the door with whom to match wits and fleece for far more than the room rate the boss has established. You stumble in, tired after a 5 hour bus ride, your travel partner frantic with cave woman fear to find a room for the night. Not much you can do there. but at least make sure you are shown three rooms. Always, they will try to give a traveler the worst room, saving better rooms for more wary guests.

A few more things - on bus transportation, and some tours, the profit margin is so thin that there is little room to bargain, and really, little need to.

Always be prepared to walk away. Like the 300 Spartans, you have to be clear in your mind about what you are going to do. Do you really need that teak wood dolphin? On the other hand, if you really want that silver pendant, buy it. The vendor can tell, anyhow.

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2012-01-25 15:15:39 by aussieghump @aussieghump

In markets etc, I start at 33% of the price and will get up to around 50% before I walk away - it's also helpful to use phrases like 'too expensive' and 'you think I am 250?" to show you have been around for a while - this usually lightens the environment and gets the negotiation flowing...key is be cheerful, be entertaining and be gracious, and make everyone smile - the bigger the crowd, the better the price... I will often ask onlookers if they think it is fair...and if they do, I lightheartedly accuse him of being the vendor's brother/sister!

If you want something badly, there will be 50 of them in other stores you can determine the best price this way! Someone usually approaches you later with a better price...

#2012-01-25 16:07:08 by aussieghump @aussieghump

In China markets, there tends to be 3 prices.... a 'local' price in which a person who speaks a 'local dialect' can get the item for, a 'Chinese price' which happens to be the price a 'Chinese' visitor or 'non-local' that might happen to know the 'list price' for the item can get it for and then the 'foreigner price', the markup that the vendor can get from people who do not understand the local prices.
For example, Local price is around 5% cheaper than Chinese price while foreigner price is somewhere around 200-300% the game and you win the prize!!!

#2012-01-28 11:01:20 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

I'm hearing bad things about Thailand these days, mostly from Chinese though, who are whining on the internet about the fact that Thailand officially has two prices - the Farang (foreigner) price and the local price. It's quite amusing to me that the Chinese, who have been doing this to foreigners since Marco Polo showed up, and still are doing it every chance they get, are so incensed (now that they have money and can travel) that someone is doing it to them.

However, it does sound like the Thai Government has decided to really put the screws to foreigners. Just one example - the official Government approved Taxi price for Farang is now about 3 times the official Government approved price for locals. What are your thoughts on that, and do you think it will (or maybe has) spread to other SE Asian countries?

#2012-01-28 16:53:47 by Lexicroft @Lexicroft

In Indonesia we have 2 price too , Foreigner price and Local price, Foreigner price can hit up to 10 times of local price, but in Bali island , the price is relatively fair, in Bali there is market for Local tourist which selling cheap and bad quality product that easily broken and Foreigner Tourist market which selling premium and luxury product, but beware , they usually mix the product when they run out of product they sell. I suggest you buy clothing , "Batik" clothes is very nice and good buy when you visit Indonesia, I not suggest you to buy wooden or bamboo based souvenir , it's very fragile and gonna be trash display back in your country. And if you Asian people , you gonna see so many China product in Indonesia. We are die hard fans of China product hahaha.
When you visit Bali , buy clothing , art , sculpture or animal product souvenir , painting , traditional weapon (the popular one is "Keris" it's short knife with zig-zag shape and usually have spiritual power , see at google) don't use it to hurt somebody! Gold jewelry is also have traditional shape and art. It's important to say "Jangan tipu saya , nanti saya tidak akan beli lagi" it's mean "Don't trick me , or later I will not buy again."
Tourist , especially Western tourist is called "Bule" , well don't sad if you called like that , Western people is very respected in Indonesia , because Indonesian think Western people is Smart and Clever also have fair judge.
I heard Taxi rate for foreigners and Taxi rate for Local tourists is different , So be careful! And taxi driver got Incentive money from tourism vendor , shop , restaurant if they promote the tourist to visit and spend money.
I recommend , if you have vacation on Bali , use your money unwisely, bargain very hard gonna make your vacation is more like business visit. Less money gonna get you cheap service and cheap service gonna make your vacation nightmare.

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