A Desi Guide to: Haggling (in India)

Guide to.. HagglingIndia is quite a heaven when it comes to shopping. You can find almost anything and everything if you know the right places to go to. Local markets are the Valhalla for haggling but if you’re an expert you can give a try in the bigger malls and stores as well.

You can negotiate on everything you want to buy – everything! Being from the west, I love transparency through price tags. If I feel like buying something in a European shop, there is a tag on the item – telling me exactly what the price is. For cabs and restaurants it is the same.

Not in India – not all the time. The price is offered after having made some small talk and you DO need to HAGGLE! First time I went on a mission to the store myself to buy fruits, I was hugely overcharged (4x the price). Being new to India and having no idea what a reasonable price for a papaya was; I happily paid the price asked.

Mission accomplished! I was so, so proud of myself.

Coming home Deepak asked me what I paid. He was shocked! I received a stern warning to haggle next time.

“How do I haggle? Do I just ask to pay less?”

Below the tips I got from my mother-in-law and Deepak:

  • Be prepared! Know what the market price is of the item you want to buy. Go to the local market, look around in multiple shops to get a rough idea of the prices.
  •  Ask for the price, always. Don’t immediately go for your wallet but make a counter offer. Rule of the thumb is start with 50% of the price asked – let the haggling begin!
  •  Throw in the a few words in Hindi to get some brownie points and some extra discount.
  •  You want choice. Ask if you can see similar products. This works perfect for the non-food products.
  •  Don’t let them charm you!!! When you enter a store, you’re suddenly the sales person’s best friend. Resist the charm. You are on a mission (remember?) to get the best price!
  •  Mention the price is too high for the offered quality. I usually combine this phase with a lots of huffs and puffs. Like I’m suffering a great deal and the sales person is charging me an arm and leg.
  •  Offer to pay in cash. This should always get you a discount especially on the local market.
  •  If you’re buying in bulk or buying multiple items, almost certainly makes you eligible for extra discount. Don’t forget to use this in your negotiations. My experience is that shop owners are ready to this.
  •  Don’t be afraid to say no and walk away when you have the feeling that you’re not getting a good deal. On most occasions, you will hear the shop owners call you back with lower prices when you are about to walk away. If not, there are other stores as well!

When all of the above tips don’t work for me I come back with my mother-in-law and watch and learn how she haggles. She will always, always make sure I get a good deal.

Are there tips which I have forgotten and which work for you? Let me know!



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