11 Ways to Get the Best Deals When Shopping in Bangkok

August 9, 2012
Best deals in Bangkok: 11 Ways to Get the Best Deals in Bangkok

Shopping in a Bangkok street market is a lot like going to war.

If you are a Westerner, this can be a tough attitude to understand and adopt, because haggling isn’t something that often occurs in Europe or North America. You have to carefully examine the battlefield, plan your strategy ahead of time, and always be mindful of the fact that it is you versus them, with both sides trying to win. My first haggling experience in Bangkok was one that I’ll never forget.

I had been given the general rules before heading into the market, and thought I was ready. They consisted of seemingly simple things like:

11 Ways to Get the Best Deals When Shopping in Bangkok

1. Always smile and remain polite.

This should be true even if the merchant becomes rude with you.

2. Go early.

Merchants believe their first sale of the day brings them luck and want to get it as quickly as possible. Alternatively, if you shop as the merchants are about to close up, you can also get a discount because they want to finish up and go home.

3. Buy in bulk.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to get a bunch of the same item, but if you buy a dozen different shirts, for instance, there’s a far better chance you’ll be able to talk the merchant down on the cost of each item.

4. Barter in Thai.

This will get you a lot farther than doing so in English, because merchants will jack up their prices.

5. Don’t ask for change after bargaining.

You’ll find that the merchant suddenly doesn’t have the right amount. So, make sure you have exactly the amount you are willing to pay.

6. Wait until you have some privacy before bargaining.

Merchants aren’t going to give you a discounted price when other potential customers can hear and ask for the same thing.

7. Don’t ask the price of the item you want first.

Pick a similar item, then act like the cost is too high and ask about something different. The second product will cost less, and when you finally get to the thing you really wanted, the starting price will be lower.

8. Decide on an amount that you’re willing to spend ahead of time.

Then empty your pockets of everything but that money. Why? You want to be able to say, “But this is all I have!”

9. Don’t be afraid to flash (some) cash.

Obviously you want to keep the amount relatively small because you don’t want to attract thieves, but it’s far harder for merchants to turn down money when it is in their faces.

10. Stick to your guns after you decide on the amount you’re willing to pay.

This means both that you shouldn’t let them talk you up, and that you shouldn’t lower your price after the initial request, because they will find this insulting.

11. Be willing to walk away – and do it.

Often the key to getting a sale is physically turning to leave. No self-respecting Bangkok street merchant wants to see good money disappear, and quite often they will stop you and agree to your price if you start to go.

With all of these things in mind, I entered the street market and began to look around, waiting for something to catch my eye. I landed on some knockoff shirts that looked well done, and thought about it before heading over. They were nice, but since I was on a budget, the most I wanted to pay was around 200 baht.

That in mind, I headed over and asked the merchant the price in Thai – 250 baht. Not horrible, but considering the fact that most clothing in Bangkok is made for pennies, I knew I should be able to talk him down. I was also mentally kicking myself, because I’d forgotten to start by asking about something I wasn’t interested in.

Right before I left, the merchant stopped me and begrudgingly agreed to my price. It had worked, and I was hooked on haggling!

I was going to have to work harder, so I frowned at the amount and told him it was too much. He moved on to another customer, and I waited until we were alone before I began to bargain, starting below my limit: 150 baht. As I assumed, he shook his head and laughed me off.

“Please,” I said, taking out 200 baht, “this is all I have.” He paused as I made a point of flashing it in front of him, but again said no. There was no way he was going below 225.

At that point I was disheartened and almost gave in, but I forced myself to remember the advice I was given. I smiled and shrugged, saying that I just didn’t have it, and turned to go with my money in my hand. Right before I left, the merchant stopped me and begrudgingly agreed to my price. It had worked, and I was hooked on haggling!

11 Ways to Get the Best Deals When Shopping in Bangkok

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Have you traveled to Thailand? What were your impressions? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear  from you.

11 Ways to Get the Best Deals When Shopping in Bangkok photo credit: Unsplash. 

About Aileen Pablo

Aileen Pablo is a freelance blogger and sports enthusiast. She currently writes for https://eccobike.ca/. Their mission is clear, forget the car and get around with zero CO2 emissions on thousands of trails and roads across North America. When not working, she likes to travel around the Philippines and enjoys blogging about it.

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