AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Hanoi: A Haggler’s Paradise

Getting the hang on haggling is difficult for us. In the UK generally the price on the shelf is the price you pay. No questions, no hassle, no worry about fairness and did someone else pay less than you.

Here every price, for every product is a negotiation. Last night at the train station the toilets had a charge. (Don’t get me started on a rant about charging for toilets. I have no issue with fees for optional stuff, but you have no option with the toilet, if you have to go you have to go and that shouldn’t be charged). I paid 3000 dong (10p). Annemarie went and he asked for 4000 dong. She had to demand 3000.

I paid 15,000 dong for a 500ml bottle (well over the normal price) at the train station last night (stupid me didn’t haggle). Today at a stall we asked the price of water (500ml bottle), she wanted 15,000 dong for it. We refused. Around the corner we got 1.5L for the same price. Bargain.

Many women were wandering around Hanoi selling bits n bobs. A particular item that was been sold (won’t mention them as they are heading to the UK for Christmas) we had turned down a few times from sellers in the street. I then mentioned to Annemarie that I actually thought they were OK and maybe we should have bought them, she agreed. Within one minute another seller had come over.
“120,000 dong each.”
Hmmm, we think about it. “100,000 for two,” I reply.
“Too low,” she cries, “120,000 each.”
“120,000 for two.”
“150,000 for two.”
Heh, defeat for her is just a matter of time now I know she’s willing to drop her prices so far so fast.
“120,000 for two,” I  repeat.
“130,000 for two,” she’s dropped again.
“120,000 for two,” I state again.
“OK”. There was a few more exchanges than that, but that was the gist anyway.
I got the product that I wanted for half the price she was offering. I have no idea if that is a good price or not, but I’m getting better at haggling.

Just saying no can often prompt a reduction in price. Starting to walk away generates even more of a reduction. And that is without any effort.

I have read some people account of haggling and they do it for fun. They actually enjoy this. I hate it! I hate both having to demand a lower price and spending time negotiating (my personality type was about 90% introverted on personality tests); not to mention the nagging doubt that I’ve just been ripped off, or at least paid more than I had to and more than others have.

Other people have written about how it’s a waste of time, to them haggling down from $2 to $1 is pointless because they can easily afford the $2 original asking price. Well, I don’t like that kind of person, it is that attitude which creates so many dammed street sellers and puts the price up so high! I continued haggling to save myself 10,000 dong (30p) because it was the principle, I had over a million in my wallet but I refused to give that little extra just because I knew that the real price was lower. Affording the product had nothing to do with it.

This then brings me to a philosophical point. What is the price of the things we buy? Is it what we are willing to pay? What others have paid? Or is there a true hidden price which only the seller knows? It just seems like a game.


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    I hate putting a cost to my own products, and I have to do it or we don’t eat. The way I force myself to see it is that time is valuable and there’s no point spending time doing something if the charge isn’t worth as much as the time itself. £10 seems like a lot for say, a mug, but if somebody has spent an hour making it, another hour hand painting it, AND they had to buy the materials it really isn’t that much any more.

    I find it near as damnit impossible to put a cost to something based on how useful it is etc. Tried and failed so many times.

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    only 90% introverted? that sounds pretty good for an IT geek !

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