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Haggling - The Art of Negotiating a Price


How do I start haggling?

1. Before negotiating the price, you need to find the product you want to buy. That sounds obvious, but in many Ugandan markets you will have to hunt around for what you need. Then, like busses and tax returns, two or more will arrive at the same time. Its not uncommon to start by dealing with several sellers, all promising you better prices or better quality goods.

2. Unless you feel really confident, it's best to deal with just one seller. Either select the first one you found, or go for the one you feel is most honest / trustworthy. A good tip is to watch first, and see who the locals deal with. If they all prefer one guy, there is probably a good reason.

3. Having selected your seller, ask for the price. You've probably been offered a price already, but its a good idea to be sure of the starting price before you start haggling.

4. From this moment onwards you need to be an actor with a sense of humour. If you get it right, there is a sense of achievement on both sides, but if you get it wrong you are either going to pay more than you needed to or possible upset somebody. There is an excellent parody of the haggling process in Monty Python's 'Life of Brian' film. If you've not seen it, take a look at Brian struggling with haggling for an instant guide to how not to do it.

5. The technique to adopt is an expression of good humoured amazement. Look astounded that anyone would ask so much for just a boring old diamond encrusted watch. How you do this is a matter of personal expression, but however you do it, do not act as if you are cross or outraged. The entire haggling process must be friendly and done with respect for the other side. It's not war and there is no need to drive the seller to the point where he can't make a profit.

6. When you express amazement at such a high price, you follow it with a much lower price of your own - about a third to half the asking price is a good start. The seller will now go through the act of looking horrified and amazed that anyone would think of offering such a low price, and come back with his next price. This will still be too high, but less than the original asking price.

7. Take the gap between his prices as a guide to how much you should increase your offers, and keep going until you get close to each other. The amount of banter you add is up to you, but most hagglers agree that making a friendly exchange of comments, especially if you can use a little Luganda too,really helps to make a connection with the seller, and thus helps with the transaction and the final price.

8. In Uganda its common for people to pause and think for a while during a negotiation. This is usually a clue that you are getting close to an acceptable price, so be willing to go in little steps once this happens.

9. When the seller smiles or says 'You pay now' or similar, you have a deal. Don't try to push the price after this point. A price agreed during the haggling is considered a done deal, and to walk away or try to get a bigger discount is considered rude.

10. Shake hands, hug or whatever seems natural, hand over the money and leave on good terms. Not only is it part of the process of buying and happy haggling, but other sellers will be watching and a positive business image pays off even in a market.

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