The haggling game

By Brianna Randall

As a first-time visitor to the old and new marketplaces of Siem Reap, I entered a world of  haggling.

 Looking at the table cloth that I would soon make my first purchase, I experienced consumer’s anxiety as the Khmer woman uttered the starting price: “Twelve dolla.”

That price was a bit much and, after debating for 30 seconds whether it was ethical to cut her profits as a businesswoman, I decided to take the bold and questionable course of action.

“No,” I said, moving to walk away.

She then quickly agreed to my price. It was at that magical moment that I discovered my God-given haggling talents!  After that, I had a standard plan. I scanned first, avoided eye contact with the vendor, and made an uncertain face. Then, when ready for the game to begin, I would simply touch the item of interest.  No doubt, it was a long and drawn-out process requiring the pursing of lips, false excuses, and threats to leave but, in the end, I always reached my price.

This was until I fell in love with a seemingly authentic and wonderfully abstract painting. Despite my undeniable skills that were improving by the dollar spent, I excitedly broke the number one haggling rule.

I literally said, “I have to have this!”

As a result, the game had ended before it even started. After my normal routine, all that I had earned was a $5 discount. What was wrong? Why was my bargaining ability so short-lived?  It was simply because she knew what I was thinking. So, feeling defeated, I gave in. Not good, but not bad either. At all, the same item could have certainly sold for four times as much back home.  Deal!

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1 comment so far

  1. Sam Pollak on

    Good strategies. I couldn’t have came up with anything like that. I’m also not good at persuading but with those rules, I could be a pro.


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