Luckily, you can learn to haggle too, even if you're not used to it. Like any other skill, haggling can be learned with practice, and is useful for almost all buy-and-sell transactions in the Philippines. Next time you want to stretch your budget at a Filipino market, here are the tricks that can come in handy.
Leave the expensive jewelry, gadgets, etc. at home.
Not only will this keep you safe from pickpockets, but it will also make you more convincing as a haggler. After all, if you look like a million pesos, why should the vendor let you pay only a hundred? If you must bring a lot of money, store them in old-looking wallets, or stash them in different places in your bags/pockets.
Bring only cash.
When you have a lot of credit cards, vendors assume you have unlimited purchasing power. But if your wallet is only filled with cash, you can only spend so much per transaction.
Bring a friend along.
If you're not an expert negotiator, bring someone who is. You may also ask your friend to teach you the "good cop, bad cop" routine, so you'll up your chances of getting the price you want.
Look for stores as far from the entrance as possible.
The closer a store is to the entrance, the higher its prices are likely to be. If you're on a tight budget, and don't mind checking out a dozen more stores, look for bargains in hidden shops. But if you're exhausted, and have a little more cash to spare, it's okay to shop at the first store you see.
Keep a neutral face.
No matter how much an item piques your interest, it's important not to be too obvious about the fact. Otherwise, a savvy vendor will assume you're willing to pay anything for the item, and won't budge on the price.
In this situation, the best thing to do is pretend to be disinterested in the product. You can also look for other items that are similar enough to be good substitutes, yet different enough for the vendor not to see through your ruse. The substitutes don't have to be within the same store; in fact, your bargaining position will be stronger if you can find better, cheaper items in other stores.
Name a price 50 percent lower than advertised.
Of course, any vendor worth their salt will want to keep discounts as low as possible. You can get around that by naming the lowest possible price first, then gradually adjusting the price in increments until you reach a figure agreeable to both of you.
For example, if you're looking to pay at least 20 percent lower, don't say "I want this for 20 percent off" from the start. Instead, say "I want this for 50 percent off," so the vendor will say "45 percent," and you can say "40 percent" and so on and so forth, until you arrive at the 20 percent discount you originally wanted.
Learn basic Fookien.
This is especially useful in places like Divisoria, where many of the merchants are Chinese. By speaking to them in their native dialect, you'll find it easier to establish rapport with them. For a complete list of useful Fookien phrases, click here.
Be pleasant and respectful.
It might sound obvious, but it helps to remember that vendors are human. If you're good-natured and courteous, they'll go out of their way to help you. If not, they'll also go out of their way to make your shopping trip a living hell.
Even if you're having a bad day, or you're not in the mood to be friendly, remember to treat vendors with respect. Smile at them, ask them questions in a well-modulated voice, and listen to them when they tell you stories. Getting on a vendor's good side isn't that different from making a friend!
As with friendships, however, some people just aren't meant to get along. If you find yourself locking horns with a vendor, and you don't see a reasonable way out, take a deep breath and walk away. Even if the vendor won't want to see you again, they will at least respect you for allowing them to save face.
Know where not to haggle.
Yes, even in a shopping-crazy country like the Philippines, there are stores that won't allow you to haggle no matter which of the above tactics you use. For example, haggling is a no-no in brand name stores, as well as any establishment inside a high-end mall like Greenbelt, Power Plant, and Century City Mall.
With these learnable negotiating tactics, you can stretch your budget in an already budget-friendly country. Practice them one at a time, and you're sure to become an expert haggler in no time.
What other haggling strategies do you know that are useful in the Philippines? Sound them off in the comments below!