You may think you’re good at bargaining, but even the most savvy, budget-conscious, stubborn negotiator can learn some valuable skills from the average corner shop owner in India.
They are masters of their art, sizing you up from the moment you walk in their store filled with tapestries, goblets, textiles, you name it, you can find it. They make friends with you, speaking multiple languages to discover which one you speak, maybe using information they picked up from your friends or other travelers to build a connection with you. Then they spin a story of a beautiful object which catches your eye, telling you it was handmade by them, or even their grandmother in an ancient family tradition. And not until you finally ask the price does the finance talk begin, but little do you know the negotiation began the minute you walked up to their shop.

And if they do their job right, you will walk away from the store feeling like you got a great bargain, but really paying 2-3 times the value of the object- in extreme cases, several times more.

Bargaining is a fundamental part of Indian culture. And with little kids on street corners selling magnets and strings of elephants, it’s no wonder that by the time they are adults they are masters of their art.

When you enter into a negotiation with someone, it is a sign of respect. No matter the final price of the object, both parties should walk away from the encounter satisfied. It is expected in all transactions, both inside and outside of stores.

Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years

1. Your biggest asset is competition, someone else down the street is probably selling it for less, make it clear that you aren’t set on an object and want to look around for other prices before you buy

2. Walk into the shop and look at something you don’t want to buy, never ask about the object you want first.

3. They won’t ever accept a price that makes them lose money- so don’t feel sorry for them.

4. Don’t believe the ‘I made this myself,’ ‘good quality,’ ‘silk,’ etc. unless you know you are buying it from a reputable shop

5. All prices are arbitrary- even price tags can be negotiated

6. As soon as they see you are a foreigner, the price triples, so start bargaining at less than half their asking price.

7. Repeat yourself a lot, don’t go up on the price too quickly

8. Walk away. Walk away. Walk away. As many times as necessary for them to bring down the price.

9. Keep a good attitude, think of it as a game and don’t get offended or annoyed at the constant high prices and negotiations.

10. Always bargain. It is expected.

Practice makes perfect. The more you bargain and the more familiar you are with the amount things should cost, the better you’re final price will be. If you walk away from the bargain satisfied with what you paid, you paid the right amount.