on friday i went to masaya (my favorite city so far) and explored the markets a little bit more… despite the fact that i’ve been there three times in the past two weeks, i still get a little lost every time i go to the municipal market.
i can’t say i mind too much. it’s fun, to explore markets without a deadline or a purpose, wandering and watching and smelling and taking it all in.
but! i have gotten significantly better at shopping there than i was before… and so here are my best tips for bargaining at markets (or really anywhere):
- know when bargaining is acceptable. a lot of people say that prices are never fixed. but at some places (for example, when you’re buying bottled water) it’s sillier to bargain than at others (for example, when you’re buying a t-shirt at a market stall). also, recognize that it’s considered acceptable — expected even — to haggle in certain circumstances, whereas in others it’s odd or even rude. other times, it may be impolite to outright question prices, but the seller will probably go down on the price if you hesitate long enough.
anyway. my cardinal rule is that i don’t bargain in microbuses and i always bargain in markets and everything else depends on the situation and the price.
- listen. if there are enough other people around, i like to casually hang around a stall and listen to see what the vendor is charging others, just to get a general feel for how much things should cost/how much i should be willing to pay.
- speaking of casual, remember: at least at the beginning, don’t be too interested. if you’re very obviously going to buy something no matter what the seller charges you, they’ll pick up on that Real Fast.
(alternately, you should still feel free to be interested and compliment the work? not just because a little flattery can get you a long way, but because showing genuine interest is nice and shows the seller that their work is valued?)
- smile. bargaining is supposed to be fun, for goodness’ sake, and i think a lot of people forget that. if arguing over a price makes you anxious, then don’t feel like you have to do it! alternately, if discussing discounts gives you a rush, make sure you look friendly rather than Super Bloodthirsty. no one likes to bargain with a bully.
- and on that note… know when to stop. especially here, it’s important to remember that you’re a (comparatively rich) foreigner, that people need to make a living — and that sometimes, arguing over those last thirty cents just isn’t worth it.
yes, i love markets, and by that token, i also love the bargaining.
but at the end of the day, that’s because i love people and i love practicing my spanish this way and i love discovering new things. prices are just, well, prices.