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As my wife and I were leaving the store, she stopped to look at a mirror. A
couple minutes later the clerk tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Okay, it's
a deal." I shook hands and went to pay for the furniture. When I saw the bill, I
noticed that there was a difference of $6 U.S., but they were not charging me
for it. When I inquired why, she said that the young man, pointing to Roberto,
had paid the difference. In my negotiating zeal, I had somehow gotten carried
away and almost let a $2,000 U.S. deal disappear over $6 U.S. My wife and I got
a great laugh and I thanked Roberto and paid him the $6 U.S.
Aside from my belief that everything is negotiable, let's talk about where
one can generally negotiate. Most stores in the Golden Zone will haggle. Some
stores that show price tags do not negotiate, but it's worth asking. Street and
beach vendors will always negotiate. Keep in mind though that these are busi-
ness people, and they are trying to make a living. Don't waste their time with
trivial questions or small talk. Be friendly, respectful, and courteous. Far too
many times I have witnessed beach vendors being loudly berated by "ugly
Americans." I have spent many happy hours haggling with vendors--and have
made friends with most of them.
The "how's" of haggling are complex and difficult, but once learned can
provide not only enjoyment but your vacation dollar will go further. My
teenage granddaughters were reluctant to negotiate prices, but after a week,
they were quite good at it.
I offer this only as a simple, personal way I have found successful. I'm sure
there are other, more successful methods. For beach vendors, my goal is to pay
60-70% of the asking price. For storeowners I usually pay 80-90% of the ask-
ing price. The reason for the difference is the overhead for the storeowner.
I start the negotiation by inquiring the asking price. I make a low-ball offer
of 30%. After some laughter, the seller counter offers and I counter offer, even-
tually arriving at an agreed price. I always initiate some joking, which allows
the vendor to joke back, but I never downgrade the merchandise. Sometimes
the price can be lowered by offering to buy more than one. I always smile and
shake hands once the deal is made. If a deal cannot be made I simply say, "No
thanks, maybe tomorrow." Sometimes the vendor will return and counter
offer, or maybe you can make a better deal with a different vendor.
Something to remember during negotiations: the advantage the vendor has
is that he knows what he can sell the item for without losing money; the
advantage you have is that you have the cash and you don't really need the
item. Don't feel guilty if you get a good deal, because the vendor is not giving
away his merchandise. He'll make it up with a tourist that is not as good a
Char les A. Hall