The haggling game: My first encounter

By Brianna Randall

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

Looking at the table cloth that I would soon purchase, I experienced consumer’s anxiety as the Khmer woman uttered the starting price: “Twelve dolla,” she said with assertion and a cold stare.

That price was a bit much and, after a quick debate between my inner angel and demon about whether it was ethical to challenge her profits, I decided to take the bold and questionable course of action that I saw in every direction on Pub Street.

“No,” I said, walking away.

Instantly, she agreed to my price. It was at that moment that I discovered the art of haggling!  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 now so familiar game to begin, I would 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, my price prevailed.

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 last round of the day had ended before it even started. After my normal routine, all that I had earned was a five-dollar 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.

 After all, the same item could have certainly sold for four times as much back home.  Deal!

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