Should I haggle for goods?

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Haggling is a normal part of shopping in many countries but people should haggle with humour – making it a friendly exchange rather than driving a hard bargain.

Although many tourists will come home with tales of how they hammered down the local vendor by a few rupees for a rug,  responsible haggling is one small way in which tourists can benefit poor people in the countries they visit. A little research about the local prices of goods and services could benefit the life of a poverty- stricken street vendor.

Tourists sometimes feel that the need to drive a hard bargain, but local people need to make a living so people should expect to pay a fair price – not the lowest possible. Haggle too hard and you could cause real suffering to traders already living hand-to-mouth. Also remember that some vendors have a fixed price (local co-operatives etc) and haggling would be inappropriate in these circumstances

Whilst it is true that haggling is part of the culture in many countries, and many local shopkeepers and vendors enjoy engaging with tourists, tourists should see it as part of the experience and engage in a friendly manner. The money paid is going directly into the hands of local people who will benefit – if it costs a little more don’t worry and just enjoy the experience. Income from tourists is an important revenue stream for many local people so shopping locally at markets and souks is good for the local economy.

When shopping try to buy locally produced goods (avoiding products made from unsustainable resources, endangered animals etc). Have a conversation with the vendor – people are overwhelming decent, honest and interesting so enjoy the exchange. Almost all the goods will be cheaper than you could buy back home, plus tourists will have the ‘premium’ of the experience and story of local people. If you like haggling and end up with a good bargain why not give the vendor a tip or something extra in return for a the experience? After all, you are on holiday – a luxury for most people on the planet.

Whilst on holiday also look out for co-operatives that will often sell locally produced goods and where the proceeds go back into the community. Many of these will have fixed prices and it would be inappropriate to haggle.

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