People coming to Thailand from a western culture where bargaining isn’t common get a bit confused about the concept of bargaining when they arrive in Thailand. Should they bargain for everything they buy? Should they bargain for nothing? Can you bargain in department stores? In restaurants? Where should you not bargain?
Basically, bargaining in Thailand is actually an easier skill to learn than you might think. There are certain unwritten rules to follow and places you can and cannot bargain at, but once you get those down pat, it’s a breeze.
Where Can You Bargain? – Markets (both indoors and outside), street side stalls, guys on the street with their wares spread out on blankets, anywhere where there isn’t a price label attached to the item. That’s where you bargain, and where you can often knock the seller down to 60-80% of the original asking price.
Where Can You Not Bargain? – Department stores, shops, boutiques, supermarkets, restaurants, market stalls that sell food (although you’ll sometimes see Thais bargaining over a kilo of star fruit) – pretty much anywhere that looks like any business in your own country or has fixed price stickers.
Of course, you may occasionally try to buy something in a small shop and the seller will tell you she can give you a discount if you buy more than one item. If she brings the subject up and you can buy more, take advantage of the offer. But don’t ask her first.
Don’t forget too, be polite when you bargain. Don’t shout, don’t look disgusted, don’t make rude comments and don’t try to get the price down too low. The minute you do any of these things, your bargaining days with that seller are over.
Bargaining in Thailand is supposed to be fun. Do it with a smile and you may be surprised what a truly good deal you do get.
Photo – If you see these statues at a Thai market, you can bargain for them too – copyright Mobilephotos, Creative Commons License