Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Haggler’s Heaven, Non-Haggler’s Hell

Nearly every price in Bangladesh is negotiable. And while that means you can get nearly everything on the cheap, it can also mean that nearly everyone is trying to rip you off. Perhaps this duality creates an “efficient” market in which people can negotiate to reach a natural market price at which supply meets demand, but for me it creates a nightmare. One problem is that, as a foreigner, I have very imperfect knowledge of the market itself. I have no concept of what labor and materials cost here, and thus have no way of determining if I am overpaying or not. And while I am more than willing to pay a slight premium for goods and services due to this handicap, I do not like being taken advantage of simply because I am foreign, and don’t know better.

I’ve been told that the general rule of haggling here is to offer a quarter of the asking price, and then negotiating to somewhere near half. However, I am somewhat uncomfortable with this proposition. I am non-confrontational, and feel like it is almost offensive to say to a vendor - I value your work so little that I am going to offer you one quarter of what you think it’s worth - especially since both he and I know that I could probably still easily afford the inflated price. I’d rather pay a slight premium for a fixed price that I know is fair. The alternative of me trying to take advantage of some vendor, or him trying to take advantage of me is much less desirable. 


  1. Well even if you pay a small premium its still heaps less than what you'd pay for something of the same quality in the US! Besides no harm in helping people who are way less fortunate than us...although I it can get super frustrating if everyone tries to rip you off!

  2. You approached bargaining in Bangladesh much the same way I did! --Alex Counts