Thursday, December 4, 2008

Camel Traders in Causeway Bay a.k.a. Is Haggling Rude?

Maybe it's hubris. Maybe it's a male thing. But I find that many men tend to see themselves as being much more handy, athletic, and ____________________ than they actually are. At least, this is true in my case when it comes to haggling or bargaining over prices.

I can't say I'm a good haggler. I usually manage to pay less than the asking price, but nearly always also end up with the nagging sensation that I didn't quite get the super deal that I thought I did. Still, having to haggle or bargain doesn't fill me with discomfort or anxiety as I've discovered it does some people.

Most recently, I haggled when we bought a computer at the Causeway Bay Fortress, where I went into haggling mode right away and put the salesman to work before discussing prices. (**The psychology of haggling requires that the buyer get the seller to invest a lot of time and effort to make the sale. This way, there is more incentive and reason for the seller to lower the price rather than have all that time and effort lead to nothing. eg. "I showed this #@%**# every feature on this damn computer. This better lead to a sale.")

Maybe it's a cultural thing. In the U.S., people are supposed to haggle for big-ticket items such as cars, but usually not for other things and especially not in chain or mall stores. Consequently, haggling isn't something most Americans get to practice that often. (**How does bargaining work in other countries? Anyone? Anyone?)**

Still, it often startles me how uncomfortable some people are with haggling. Some even say that having to make a low offer after being presented with an asking price (even at blatant tourist traps) makes them feel like they're being rude somehow.

I can see the reasoning behind such a view, but I just can't imagine always paying the asking price. Moreover, I don't think haggling is rude at all. It's just two parties talking things over to come to an agreement. After all, most haggling leads to a sale. In fact, I wouldn't bother to haggle over something that I wasn't seriously interested in buying. Haggling is work, after all.

Anyway, since having more opportunities to haggle is another perk of HK life, I hope that our stay here will help me become a better bargainer. After all, it is a life skill that comes in quite handy.

And as the old saying goes, if you can't be handsome, you better be handy.


Winifred said...

I often don't enjoy haggling, but sometimes I feel that I have to, because otherwise I'm being taken for a fool. I feel this especially in some places in China when I shop.

There's also the "keeping up w/ the Jones" or rather "keeping down w/ the in-laws". How can I hold up my head in front on my sisters-in-law if they ask how much I paid for something & I over-paid?

In HK, I usually pay the marked asking price for vegetables or fruit in the wet-market, unless it's close the closing time, or the price is *really* more than I want. Then I'll try a deal.

Anonymous said...

I pretty much never enjoy haggling, probably because i am so crap at it.

Still the wife is good at it so its not too bad!

GIT Mist

mao365 said...

Winifred, it didn't occur to me about "keeping down w/ the in-laws" but I could see how that could happen.

And GIT Mist, good to know someone who can haggle for you.

It does seem that haggling is something one can practice and something that sellers expect buyers to do.

Winifred said...

Follow-up. I learned some basics of bargaining and market economics at Boston's Haymarket.

I also learned that in places w/ a sales tax or VAT, less than scrupulous sellers would give a mark-down if you paid in cash.

HK Lozzo said...

I'm from the UK and the only time people haggle is for private sales, i.e selling your car or furniture through newspaper adds. If you are buying something from a shop, even and independant shop, people don't haggle. Its not in our nature to haggle and it most certainly isn't in the business practise of shops to give out different, lower prices to the public. There would be an outcry. For major department stores or chains, it will never happen.Sales assistants simply do not have the power to consider lowering an advertised price. I'm not even sure that individual store managers have such ability. they'd have to make phone calls to head offices and fill out forms in triplicate and wait several weeks for a reply! It just doesn't happen in the UK. Hence, here in HK i'd much rather just pick my item and hand over the money. job done, in and out in the shortest time. Who the hell wants to waste time saving a few dollars just because its possible? Not me. Don't like the price, go somewhere else which sells it cheaper. Same result, no haggling.