In many cultures, the art of negotiating (or haggling) is a way of life. Shopkeepers mark up products in hopes that unsuspecting or careless tourists will pay top dollar. For people who travel with children, this is an excellent teaching opportunity. Teaching a child to negotiate prices is a life skill that will serve them for years to come.
While traveling in Thailand, our son was quite proud that he was able to talk a street vendor down on the price of a small wooden “Gouda” (we had to later explain to him that Gouda was cheese and not the founder of Buddhism). We were impressed… all the advice and lessons from other trips had paid off.
Before your next trip, there are some simple things that you can do to help prepare your child for the challenge of trying to score an awesome deal on their next souvenir.
Keep a Straight Face
This one is difficult for kids. They see something that they want and it’s hard not to get excited. Explain to them that shop keepers know that people are willing to pay more for items that they really want. A good strategy is to tell them to take the time to peruse the other merchandise before focusing on the item they would like to haggle for.
Don’t Touch The Merchandise
This is the most important lesson. It’s common practice for street vendors to try and get goods into the hands of a passerby. Once you are holding the merchandise, it’s very hard to walk away. Kids are especially vulnerable as they are naturally trusting of other people. Remind your child to never let anyone hand them anything without your permission first.
Beware of “Free” Gifts
While we’ve had people give our son “no strings attached” trinkets from their shop, this isn’t always the case. In some cultures, this is used as a scam where the police are called and victim forced to pay for the item. Even if you aren’t being scammed, it’s easy to feel guilty and purchase another item. Teach your child to not accept anything that they wouldn’t be willing to pay for. I almost always insist that they allow me to pay them something for the item.
Negotiate for Multiple Items
If you can’t get the seller to budge on the price, consider asking for a bulk price. Sometimes when you offer to buy a few of the same item or a couple different items, the seller will give you a better price.
Let Them Hold the Money
Before entering the market, give them a small amount of money to use. This has a couple benefits. First, they know that they only have limited funds and must work hard to haggle for items that are out of their price range. This is also a great way to give your child some leverage. It gives the illusion that are spending their own money and won’t be able to make a withdraw from the Bank of Mom and Dad.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you have taught your child the basics of haggling, let them put their new skills into action before your trip abroad. A good way to do this is to get them some real world exposure. Take your child to a few garage sales and give them the challenge of getting something for half off the sticker price.
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