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19 June 2007

To Bargain or Not To Bargain

Tips from an American English teacher living in Turkey. I had an interesting discussion in my Business-English class last week. The topic for the night was business negotiations. As a warm-up, I asked my students when it is and isn’t appropriate to bargain in Turkish culture. As a foreigner from a country where not much bargaining happens, I thought it may prove to be interesting. The discussion lasted an hour and certainly caused me to think.

The following list is what emerged.

Things you DON’T bargain for:
  • Doctor’s visits
  • Name-brand clothing stores (e.g. Levis or Mango)
  • Cigarettes
  • Luxury goods
  • Bus and Plane Tickets
  • Books at the bookstore
  • Movie tickets
  • Pharmacy
  • Large grocery stores (or Walmart type stores)

Things you DO bargain for:Bargaining in the Market
  • Furniture
  • Taxi rides
  • Shoes
  • Clothes (depending on the store)
  • Fruits and Vegetables at the bazaar
  • Cosmetics
  • Cars
  • Houses
  • Classes (most bargained for the price of the English course they were taking)

We role-played the sale of a pair of women’s shoes at a high-end shop (9-West,) which was very interesting. The greatest piece of leverage I noticed was that people can almost always get a lower price if they offer to pay cash for goods received, i.e. not using a credit card, and not requiring a receipt. This allows the merchant to make a cash sale, not paying sales tax or credit card fees. This strategy works best by bargaining to the lowest possible price, and then asking “what if I pay cash?”

I was surprised to hear that some people bargain in every possible setting and even haggle over pennies when buying things like spinach or parsley from the bazaar (farmer’s market). The reason this made me think is that I realized I come from a culture where virtually no bargaining happens. We only see this age-old method of selling and buying practiced when negotiating major sales like a house or car. It made me wonder; what do you bargain for? Would any Americans add anything to my list of things we bargain for in the States (which includes only houses and cars)?

This post was written by Jake Olson from a Foreign Perspective. Jake writes many times a week about life in Turkey from “a Foreign Perspective.” If you are interested in contributing to the thinking process and become a guest writer on The Thinking Blog, find out more information here and be my guest!

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