Everybody has had the awkward moment where you pretended not to like something after seeing the price tag. However, there are cultures where price tags are not the rule-of-law. Studying abroad provides the luxury of paying what you want, when you want, but only if you know how.
Here are some of the tricks I learned while studying abroad in China.
Tip Number One: Shop around.
A lot of stalls and vendors make shop in high traffic areas for tourists. People visiting these outlets typically move from site to site to see as much as they can before returning home. In response to this foreigner attitude, vendors will raise their prices to make easy money. If you see something you like, that isn’t made by someone famous, then look around in a non-touristy area to find it much cheaper. and you are likely to find it much cheaper.
Tip Number Two: Remember the real cost.
The real cost for whatever you are looking at is probably 1/3 of what you are being told. I realize this sounds unbelievable, but it’s the ugly truth. A lot of things sold by vendors are either bought in whole sale through different connections, or are easy to make on their own. A vendor will never go that low because they lose their profits, but starting there and working your way in-between your price and their price is a great way to haggle. If you still don’t trust me, just remember tennis shoes cost $30 dollars on average to make and are usually sold for $100.
Tip Number Three: Never reveal how much money you have.
Aside from being a good safety tip, this can you help you when haggling too. A vendor will always assume Americans have plenty of money, despite being a student. If someone is refusing to budge on a price, you can typically get them to lower it by claiming you only have X amount of dollars. When you do this make sure you look upset you can’t buy the item, and that you don’t want to leave it. Be dedicated to your acting, and be willing to walk away (remember tip number 1). Usually when you start to walk away the vendor will begrudgingly drop the price because they need you more than you need them.
Tip Number Four: Tell them you’re a college student.
When studying abroad in places with traditional markets, or cultures relying on familial connections, take the time to become friends with people. Sticking with the same coffee shop can lower the price of your drinks if you get to know the people who work there. If you are in a market and take time to get to know a vendor, making a personal connection will usually get you a sentimental deal. If you struggle making connections, feel free to use your college student status as a way to market yourself. Promise a vendor you have friends you will bring by for more business and they will be more than happy to work with you.
Tip Number five: There is strength in numbers
When you’re with other people buying from the same seller, they are more flexible. A vendor would rather make a deal for multiple sales than lose multiple customers. But there are other tricks you can do with multiple people as well. Foreigners have a habit of speaking English without realizing other people understand them. You can use this to your advantage. When a vendor refuses to budge on a price, simply turn to talk to your friends. You can say whatever you want, but make sure you audibly talk about returning to another vendor that promised a lower price. Graciously thank the vendor for their time and begin to walk away. This tactic is not guaranteed to work every time, but a vendor will usually try to bring you back and lower the price to match what you said the other vendor is selling for.
The trick in this last tip should only be used as a last resort since you lose the ability to return to that vendor.