Today in class we were asking our teacher how much we should expect to pay for certain things around town. So much of the art of shopping here depends on your bargaining skills. If you don’t know what sort of price to aim for on a product… you may never know how badly you are being cheated. Some of the more major department type stores or even some of the chain stores have fixed prices… but anywhere else it is everyman for himself. The best rule of thumb, as a foreigner, is to take the price they give you and offer them 1/3 of it. Work you way up to half… if they still haven’t agreed then just start to walk away.
When we told our teacher that we did not bargain at home, she was amazed. Her first question was “not even on the street?”. Both my roommate and I had to stop and think about it for a minute… “How do we buy things from street dealers at home?” The answer is we don’t have them at home, at least not the type of thing she is referring too.
As you walk around town you will see any number of sellers with their things spread out on the ground. Some of them have carts that are loaded down with all their wares. Others, however, don’t see the need for a cart when the ground works just fine. From the ground you can buy everything from meat to fruit, clothing to toys. You can always tell when someone gets wind of the fact that the police are coming by. In a matter of seconds everyone with a cart is in on the run, and people whose things are just on the ground pick up the corners of the blanket and go.
My shopping habits will never be the same again. I wonder how the Walmart sales lady will respond to my finely tuned bargaining skills.