Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bargain Prices

After having traveled to countries where bargaining on prices for items is the norm, I have become accustomed to the back and forth negotiating between myself and the shopkeeper to try to reach an agreement for the price for any given item. I would argue that bargaining is an art form all on its own. It requires a certain amount of skill, headstrong stance, and charisma. If you are polite and nice to the shopkeeper, usually you can get a better price. You also need to gauge and think about how much you think the item is actually worth. But most importantly, realize that if you don’t get the item for the price you want, usually you can find a similar, if not identical, item someplace else.

Having been in Morocco for a few weeks now, I realize something about many of the shopkeepers that I have met along my travels. One, they tend to give me a better price when I am alone trying to negotiate with a single individual than when I am with a group. Two, they charge foreigners much more for the same item than they do with Moroccans. And three, they tend to place whatever starting price they want and see if people, specifically foreigners, can be suckered into paying outrages prices. I have had all these three experiences while in Morocco. For example, at one store where hand carved items were sold, I was told that an item would cost 100 Dirhams, whereas a Moroccan traveling with us said that the owner told her that the item cost a mere 30 Dirhams. In another example, a store owner was trying to sell me a shirt for 250 Dirhams, but I offered to pay 50 instead (we eventually negotiated that I was buy 2 shirts for a total of 150, and I’m sure that he still made a good profit). But like I said, negotiation is an art form, and not everyone is comfortable with it. Once I saw a British couple agree to pay 1000 without negotiating for a necklace where literally 15 minutes earlier the owner was trying to sell me the same necklace for 300 Dirhams.

Still, it can be lots of fun to go shopping and negotiate with the owners over the prices of what you are interested in purchasing. If you stay long enough, you can have great conversations with the owners about anything from politics, to religion, to culture, to globalizations, to music, or whatever else comes up. Shopping becomes very personal this way, and way more interesting.

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