SHOPPING & HOW TO BARGAIN AS A LOCAL IN CAMBODIA
Shopping in Cambodia can be fun and enjoyable experience.
There are plenty of good bargains to be had in the markets of Cambodia. But the most important thing to keep in mind when psyching yourself up for a bout of haggling is that you win some, you lose some. As long as you’re happy with what you paid, don’t stress too much when you find out that the guy in the next stall was offering the same tacky tourist trinket for a buck less.
1. BE NICE WHEN SHOPPING IN CAMBODIA
At the risk of stating the obvious, be nice and don’t annoy or insult the vendor when you are shopping in Cambodia. Many tourists believe that prices should be “fair,” therefor everyone should pay the same amount for the same goods or services. As result, this can hurt one’s feelings and create a desire to argue. However, getting angry over a few dollars spent on a souvenir is no way to spend your holiday. Relax, smile, and try to be friendly with the seller. If you don’t agree with the price, you don’t have to buy it—but you don’t have to be angry about it, either. It may help to think of haggling as a game, or as a cultural dance of etiquette, rather than just a transaction.
2. SHOP AROUND
No matter what you’re buying, common sense dictates that you research the market before you throw down a wad of cash. After a bit of browsing and enquiring, you’ll get a good feel for how much vendors are marking things up.
For instance, in most tourist markets the notoriously pushy vendors are known to initially toss out a price up to 300 percent higher than what they’re really willing to sell for. Many times, I’ve seen people bargaining for items with no idea of what the end price should be. Should that T-shirt you’re fond of cost the equivalent of $3 USD or $30 USD? But if you start the bargaining at $30 and then a few seconds later tell the seller you actually want to pay $3, they’re going to think you’re toying with them.
Do some research by asking fellow tourists or by browsing in a few shops, to see what other people are paying for similar items. If you can, ask a local who’s unaffiliated with any sellers to let you know what the “local price” is. Foreigners may not be able to bargain down to the “local price” without local language skills, but at least it will give you an idea of where you should begin and end your bargaining while shopping in Cambodia.
“Don’t accept the first price!” is the golden rule.
3. BUY IN BULK
Strength in numbers is a great concept to apply to discount negotiations. When shopping, make sure to ask the shopkeeper the wholesale price on a bulk buy, as there’s usually dual pricing at play -– a retail price for just one purchase or a wholesale price if you buy two to three items from the same shop.
Purchasing multiple items is almost guaranteed to get you a lower purchasing price than if you buy a single thing. “And definitely ask for bulk discounts when buying fabrics, clothing and souvenirs”
4. KNOW WHEN TO WALK AWAY
Ah, the walk-away game. So widely bragged about by tourists who seem to think they came up with this ingenious form of trickery all on their own. Basically, this is the idea: you walk away when the vendor doesn’t agree to a low enough price. In theory, the obstinate vendor will be so crestfallen that he or she will chase you down the street and give you an exasperated “OK, OK, you can have it.”
But don’t think the vendors aren’t on to you. The walk-away strategy should be employed only if you’re not going to be kicking yourself later when the shopkeeper calls your bluff.
5. DON’T RUSH
If you rush through a transaction, the seller will figure that you’ll finally get frustrated and pay a higher price than you would if you had more time. Try not to go shopping with a narrow time frame, unless, of course, it’s an emergency.
6. SOMETIMES IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO BARGAIN
Salespeople the world over are shrewd judges of human nature. If they know that you are dying to purchase that pair of flip-flops, they’re much less likely to lower the price for you than if you pretend you don’t care if you get them or not. Unless it’s a dire emergency (your other flip-flops just broke and you’re wandering the streets of Siem Reap barefoot) act like you could walk away without the item in question.
In general there are some items with set prices even when you shop at the local market:
- fruits, vegetables and other food items – food at the local markets changes price during the year depending on the season but generally prices are set and not negotiable (or only very little)
- ready-made food at street stalls – the price are set for Cambodian students, so street food in never really expensive… so enjoy and do not waste your time trying to get 5cents off.
- products in supermarkets – YES, you can not bargain in local food supermarkets while shopping in Cambodia.
- single items bought in local shops – however if you are buying several items you can try to negotiate discount.
“Don’t be afraid to walk away if the vendor isn’t in the mood to negotiate, maybe today is not your day to get a bargain.”