First of all, I have to confess that I am
hopeless at bargaining. I will fall in love with something and then will accept
the price far too willingly. Sometimes I feel that it is a little mean to
hammer the price down too low – largely because the sellers far outnumber the
buyers in these markets. However, I have been knocking around these markets for
long enough to see how others do it and have picked up a few tips of my own.
1.Think before you shop. What do you want
to buy and how much have you got to spend. It’s amazing how a tight budget will
help you hone those bargaining skills! It’s also a good idea to have some lower
denomination notes and change with you. Waiting for change to be found amongst
other market vendors can double the time of your transaction – however, don’t
worry – your trader might disappear for 10 minutes but they fully intend to
find you to give you the change owed. I have never experienced a ‘disappearing
act’ in these cases.
2.Walking around the market with all of
those goods laid out on the ground can be overwhelming. Not only is it a
technicolour feast for the eye, but every time you want to bend over and look
at anything at all closely, you are hit with a hard sales spiel that is
impossible to ignore. Don’t be bullied. Look at and pick up anything you like
and don’t be afraid to put it right back down again. My cop out is the phrase;
‘Nitarudi baadai’ – ‘I’ll come back later’. My advice is have a good look
around to ‘get your eye in’ before buying anything. Check out the opening price
of a Tusker T-shirt with a few vendors, before opening your negotiation.
3.Go low. Generally the vendor will give
you an opening price. They use a few tricks, such as whispering to create the
impression that their competitors should not hear or telling you that you are
‘opening their business for the day’, i.e. you are their first customer. And that they are giving you the ‘local
price’ not ‘tourist price’. All of this gives the impression that you are being
taken into the vendor’s confidence. In
spite of the guilt you might feel – go in at less than half the opening price.
I generally end up settling on a price somewhere just above half but people who
bargain better than me can often wind up paying less than half.
4.Don’t be afraid to walk away. Yes, go
on! Walk away!! The vendors might convince you to come back straight away to
‘talk’ – however, others will let you go. Just remember, time is on your side.
After what has presumably a fairly stressful few moments of heavy bargaining,
go away and decide if you really do want the item or not. If the vendor is not
concerned about you going, then you are probably pushing for too low a price.
5.Show the money. When you and the vendor
are quibbling over the last few hundred shillings, then pulling out a note or
two can really seal the deal. If you
say, well I have 600 bob, and that’s all I have left, then hand over said notes,
the feeling of that currency in the vendor’s hand is often enough for them to
agree to your terms. (This is where I feel guilty and start fishing around for
coins to make up an extra 50 bob). Remember that you might need to keep a
couple of small notes for your parking fee!
6.Are you happy? Are you comfortable with
the price you paid? I know that other people are better at bargaining than me
but at the end of the day, if I have paid a price that I was happy with and
that was within my budget, then that is more important to me than screwing the
vendor down to the last possible shilling. (By now you can tell that I am a
hopeless business woman!). Also, save enough cash for a ‘recovery’ cappuccino
and a cake later (or something stronger). It’s amazing how the noise and
excitement of the market can make you come over all weak and funny.