A friend who is vacationing in Southeast Asia e-mailed me from Hoi An , Vietnam where he is staying at a 3 star hotel. His hotel room is airconditioned and has a toilet with hot water and shower and cable TV. The buffet breakfast ( included in the room rate) includes four types of fruits, pancakes, pastries,French bread, omelettes, lunchmeats,coffee and orange juice. He writes ” I am paying $ 32/ day for this and find it a good deal.” But then he got to talking with some of the other guests at the hotel and found that ” a Chinese Canadian couple paid $ 22/ day and two college age Danish girls paid $ 12/day for the same room…… evidently, they are better negotiators than me.”
All I can say is that if it had been me, I would have probably been paying $ 50 / day for that same room. I have always been a horrible negotiator and , with the passage of years, I have only gotten worse. When we travel abroad and are at a store, my wife has me step aside while she does the bargaining. She is better than me but even she doesn’t try to beat the price down as much as she could.
Why do people bargain ? Throughout Asia, and in some parts of Europe espescially at street markets, bargaining is the norm. The prices have been jacked up and it is expected that the customer will try to negotiate them down.This puts us from the West at a disadvantage since we are not used to bargaining. In poorer countries, we are always mindful that these people have so much less than us and , after a certain point, bargaining goes against the grain.
To be sure, there are a few people who love to bargain and approach each transaction like a competitive sport, battling to get every last dollar if possible. The rest of us are not bent on getting a bargain; we just don’t want to feel that we’ve been ‘taken’. We hate to hear “What ! you paid 10 bucks for that? I got two of them for $5. ” But, on the whole, we would rather pay a little more than bargain for that extra dollar or two and feel guilty afterwards. If at all I know my friend who’s vacationing in Vietnam, he might have felt a momentary twinge at having paid more but it would not have bothered him for long.
I must admit though that the diffrential rates that foreigners are charged sometimes bother me because they are so exorbitant, being based on an approximately 1:1 equivalency of foreign to local currencies. I agree that we should be charged more but not that much more. I didn’t mind at Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica where we were charged 7 times as much as the locals ( at the time the exchange rate was $ 1 U.S = $ 38 Jamaican). I did mind when we were charged Rs. 750 apiece at the Taj Mahal when locals were paying Rs. 25 ( the exchange rate was Rs. 44 = $ 1 U.S). A friend of mine commented that , if we had to shell out 30 times as much, at least he would like to see a separate admission line for tourists.He said as much to his guide and that worthy said ” Of course” and tried to get him to the head of the line! My friend said there was no way he was going to cut in line and that was the end of that.
Perhaps my antipathy to paying more is because the money is going to a faceless government entity rather than an individual whom I am dealing directly with.