University Night Market Chiang Mai
A night market in front of Chiang Mai University

The practice of bargaining prices for various purchases is something a lot of people like to attribute to Asian nations, especially China. Haggling has become an art that lots of tourists either love to take part in or feel awkward doing, as it is not a common thing to do in places like the United States.

Bargaining for discounts on items at night markets has become a past-time for many people, even my own mother and sister. I personally have tried to avoid doing it but ever since I came to Chiang Mai, Thailand, I had to try my hand at it–as most items in Chiang Mai are overpriced since there are so many tourists.

There are three methods that I use or have been advised to use by others. Though I’ve only done two out of the three, I’ve seen my classmates do them all and they have been successful. These methods are: Starting Off Low, The Put-Down, and The Walk-Away.

Starting Off Low

This is a basic method and one that I usually do when I don’t feel like putting in too much effort. When you are told the price, offer up another price that is lower than what you are actually willing to pay. That way, if the seller is not willing to settle, you can gradually change the price to go up until hopefully by the time you reach your preferred price, the seller would have accepted it by then.

For example, in the picture below is a red tank top that I bought for only 150 after haggling it down from 300 baht.
Market clothes
I asked the lady if I could have it for 100 baht, to which she said no. I raised it to 130, she still said no, finally 150 and she agreed (but only started to look like I was going to put it down). Start low, and go up by ten or twenty baht increments.

The Put Down

If after a failed attempted haggling session, or even after you simply ask the price and it seems too much, put down the item. More times than none, the seller would try to change your mind by lowering the price so that you would want to buy it again.

I got a 50 baht discount on the black tank top in the photo above because I pretended to put it down after being told the shirt was 250 (which is a little expensive for clothes here). Of course, this method doesn’t always work, so don’t expect to always be given a discount–as with the method below.

The Walk Away

This is a last resort for me,  to which I haven’t tried yet. If haggling doesn’t work and you walk away, it’s similar to the Put Down method in that the seller would call you back to make another deal. I have witnessed this done first hand by several classmates who would pretend to walk away after finding something too expensive, and almost every time they would get called back and offered a deal that they could then haggle down to a price they liked.

Of course, if you are going to risk walking away, please be sure that the item is something you can let go. Because you do not want to lose face by pretending to walk away only to regret not getting the item later, or turning around after a few steps. But always remember that that item will probably be at that same shop later and you can always come back to it.

As a bonus, sometimes you can make the seller sympathise with you by frowning at the price or even making puppy eyes at them. That might seem a little extreme, but it works!

Vanda Moore  is a student at the University of Kentucky and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Vanda is currently studying abroad for the summer with TEAN in Chiang Mai, Thailand.