Haggling in the world’s markets is essential and Marrakech is a great gateway to the world of bartering. Here are our top tips on how to haggle.
When you first enter the world of local markets it can seem overwhelming. There’s so much choice, so many eager sellers, and so many contrasting voices (in even a small market square) it’s easy to feel lost. Haggling is one of the best ways to engage with the locals and the culture, helping you feel right at home. Plus, bartering for a good price is exciting and rewarding. Give your haggling skills just a little practice and you’ll be strutting through the streets like you own them!
Know the playing field
Get your bearings, Marrakesh’s Medina is a maze. Follow the flock and start your adventure in the Jemaa el Fna. Give yourself a moment to people-watch at one of the cafes or juice bars and take it all in, it’s quite a sight.
Amidst the wiggling, tooting horns of the snake-charmers, the towering and clambering street performers, and the melody of the Muslim muezzin, you’ll start to get a feel for Marrakesh.
Next, browse the wares in the souks and get lost! Consider this market research. Building an understanding of how much the vendors starting prices are, and how they vary from souk to souk, will leave you feeling more comfortable handling your first purchases.
If you’re like us, the first time you haggle will be intense. Part of this comes from the fact that we don’t really understand how much things are worth. Whilst purchasing stuff from a shop at home, you never consider the true cost of an item: how much it costs to produce; where it comes from; how much you should pay for it. In a classic UK shop you simply hand over the money.
Haggling in the world’s markets is all about evaluating the worth of the item, both to you and the vendor. Always remain considerate that this is how the vendor makes a living. Take it slowly, and be careful not to offend by offering a ridiculously low price. Seek out of the place of production. For example Marrakech’s souks are home to several artisans and it’s often better to head to these, they’re not salespeople but craftspeople.
Half of haggling is making sure you strike the right balance. If a vendor suggests you pay extortionately for an item, feel comfortable offering anything up to 75% less. The vendors expect this!
Smile and be friendly. There’s nothing more important. People are more willing to negotiate if you get off on good footing. Haggling is all about the banter: if you can get the vendor laughing, you are half-way there.
Friendliness is essential, but try not to get too friendly. Again, strike the balance. Raving and raving about how much you like the product, you can bet it’s going to be harder to get the vendor down to a reasonable price.
You want to retain a “take it or leave it” attitude. You might love the intricately designed lamp, but don’t let the vendor know.
Use the right words
Keep your phrasebook handy. Say your please and thank-yous, trying hard to emanate that elusive accent. You’ll garner some respect with the vendor, and won’t appear, at first, to be a hapless tourist looking for a new rug, a sack of olives or still-gulping fish.
With the same idea in mind, learn to say “no.” It’s best to simply walk away if you’re not interested in an item. In Marrakesh, they’ll offer you Mint tea, in Vietnam they’ll ask you a dozen questions about your life, and in Thailand you’ll be half-way to their family home by the time you realise it’s too late: you’re going to have to buy something.
Save yourself and the vendor the effort. A polite, firm “no thank you” is the best way to go.
Most importantly, have fun! Haggling shouldn’t be an arduous task. A few purchases down and you’ll be roaming the twisting streets keen to seek out a bargain. Furthermore, remember, what may seem like a bargain to you is another person’s profit. Keep it fair, keep it fun! Happy hunting.