by Melinda Gallo

Bargaining almost every purchase

The one thing that I've had a hard time to get used to is bargaining. I read that no matter what price they tell you, you should only pay about 25% of that. I went into a shop to look at a sun dress and I asked the woman how much it was. She picked up a calculator and punched in "300." To pay six Euros for a sun dress isn't that much, but I assumed that if I'm supposed to only pay 75 bhat (about 1.50 Euro), I should try to bargain a little bit.

I wasn't sure how to begin, so I told her that I'd give her 150 bhat. She shook her head, and punched in "290." She then handed me the calculator to show me. I said it was too much, so she hit the "C" button and told me to write what I can pay.

A bit of guilt set in as I know that the price was already low, so I offered her "200." I realized it was low when she looked at the calculator and said, "OK."

After that first try, I tried to bargain some more and sometimes they let me walk out and other times, I left the shop because I wasn't getting anywhere.

It took me a few times to understand why they always discussed prices on the calculator. At first, I thought it was because there wouldn't be any confusion, but then I realized is that if there are other customers in the shop, they don't want anyone else to know what price you're willing to pay and what they agree to.

One time I was bargaining for a top and the sales girl and I discussed the price orally until a woman hovered nearby. She'd look at the tops and then look up at us. The sales girl eventually pulled out her calculator and we settled on a price that way.

We met a couple during dinner the other night and he told me that whenever he goes into a shop he bargains and never pays more than one-third of what they ask for. I told him that I wasn't good at bargaining and told him that I always pay too much.

I do try to bargain a little bit, but since the prices are already low, I feel a bit guilty asking for a discount, which was my final strategy as it helped me feel less like it was a competition and more as if they were doing me a favor.

In the end, I had to bargain with almost every shopkeeper and only found respite when I was in restaurants or buying food. I even bargained the price of tour packages because I figured I'd just try, and it worked. I got a few good discounts.

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