Something many people are not familiar with is bartering. In America it’s very rare to barter for any goods or services in a traditional marketplace. Of course things like eBay and Craigslist have changed the way we shop, but for the most part, Americans don’t enter a store and offer half of the advertised price and expect to get away with it. In some countries, that’s exactly what you are expected to do though.
Know the market
Each culture is different. Some places might expect and encourage bartering, others might be extremely offended. Find out what is normal about the country you are visiting by checking your guidebook or doing research online before you go.
In some places you can barter over just about anything, including taxi rides.
Stick to your guns
If you’re doing some shopping for goods in a place that actively barters don’t let anybody talk you into buying something you don’t want. Bartering is a game for most people and many shoppers will spend money just because they want to win or feel like they are getting a deal.
Decide your price early and stick to it. Be prepared to walk out on a deal. It’s funny how the price lowers as you have one foot outside the door.
Respect the economic differences
Sure, us westerners are experiencing a recession, but we still make more money than most people around the world. Don’t barter with a poor merchant just to win a deal. If the price is fair and within your price range, go for it. You’ll probably provide food for their family for a week by making a small purchase.
It goes the other way as well. I’ve had shopkeepers think I was a “rich American” and expect me to pay inflated prices for many items. In Morocco I was offered a blanket for $50. I could have purchased something similar back home for less than $10.
You’re going to have to eat that
I don’t care what anybody says. I’ll never barter over the price of food.
Most of all, have fun shopping and bartering. Maybe the price was always 50% off what was originally quoted, but it still feels good to get a deal. Don’t get taken advantage of, but enjoy your shopping experience.