Shopping: how to bargain

Haggling (bargaining) is common in Iran. If you don't haggle, it is highly likely that you will get ripped off, because vendors expect a bit of haggling and state their prices higher than what they expect to receive. That's why it's essential to learn how to bargain. Some points to keep in mind:

1)Ask a trusted local what price range is appropriate.

2) Thus, try to have a rough understanding of the item's value before you start haggling. For example, government-run craft shops and hotel gift shops generally have (high) fixed prices that will at least give you an upper boundary.

3) If the vendor's initial offer is too high by far, then feel free to laugh or show astonishment in some way. This is usually expected and will quickly indicate to the vendor that you are aware of the item's real value- even if you are not.

4) Just as vendors often start with absurdly high prices, you can do an equivalent trick by stating a price that is much lower than what you expect to pay in the end. This gives you some negotiating room. Don't go overboard though: if you offer a dollar for a carpet, the vendor will assume you have no idea of the item's true worth.

5) It's a common move to bid the vendor farewell and start walking off. You will most certainly get at least two offers, each lower than the previous. Alternatively, the vendor may ask "How much do you want this?", which acknowledges the fact that they realise a potential sale is walking out of the door.

6) In some cultures it is also common for the salesman to walk off if the price is too low. This occurs the closer you get to the profit threshold but stay firm, the salesman will return in minutes to try more bargaining

7) Be courteous and friendly (but firm) in your negotiations. If the vendor takes a personal liking to you, you will almost always get a better deal.

8) You might be offered tea, coffee, snacks, etc. You can accept it and it does not mean you have to buy anything. Although you may be 'guilt-tripped' later. Be strong-willed.

9) Do not let unknown locals help you bargain or find what you need. You will end up paying an extra commission.

10) If bargaining for something unique, don't show too much interest in the item you are actually interested in, or the vendor will know that they're your only choice and price accordingly.

11) Learn the Persian numbers. It will save you a lot of time and money when you are bargaining about a hotel room and there is a price list right in front of you. You should still bargain, but it gives you a starting point.

12) Learning to count in Persian can win you some respect and therefore a better price. If you can, stick to the local language even if the seller uses English or your own language.

13) Be honest. If you make a counteroffer, you're now committed to that price. Don't waste your time or the seller's time bargaining if you have no intention of buying.

14) Remember that vendors are generally not evil swindlers attempting to trick people out of their hard-earned money; they are often businessmen working to support their families. When haggling, your goal is not to eliminate their profit, but to find a mutually satisfactory price.

15) Don't take it too seriously. Have a sense of humor and know when to accept an offer. Remember that usually the amounts you are arguing over are actually a pittance to a traveler from the West, but might mean far more to the vendor.

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