No price tag? Haggle your way to ownership

Sombrero Sale

Growing up in a world where businesses clearly mark their products with a price tag makes the idea of bickering over price something of a foreign language. In Mexico, if there is no price, make an offer. Prepare to haggle.

Sure, I’ve been on the purchasing end of a car enough times to realize the sticker price is what the dealer hopes you’re willing to pay. Do people actually pay it? I never have.

Still, there’s a recommended starting point. The salesman asks what you’re willing to pay, what monthly amount fits your budget. And the dance begins.

Walking into a shop stuffed with fired pottery, woven blankets and straw handbags is a different world. Not a single price point in sight.

The smiling salesperson helps you find the perfect pattern. He describes the five-step process required in crafting, painting and finishing the microwave, oven and dishwasher-safe serving dishes you’re admiring.

“How much?”

“$70.”

I’m not willing to spend that much on myself. It’s Christmastime, however, and I have no problem shoveling it out to purchase a gift.

Which is the wrong thing to do in Mexico. Never say “yes” to their first offer. But I’m a tourist, so I reach for my wallet.

Problem number one: I don’t have enough cash.

Problem number two: it will be 16 percent more if I use a credit card (because that is the amount of tax the government collects on every sale. Cash can exchange hands without El Presidente’s fingers getting in the pie).

Problem solved: We pool our money – after the suave salesman offers us a “deal” which includes another item my future daughter has been admiring.

Later, in a shop elsewhere on the plaza, I’ll find a similar set of pottery (not the pretty pattern I love) clearly marked with a $40 price tag. This is a larger store. They don’t want to haggle; they want to sell the products lining their shelves.

And yes, they add the tax. So $40 plus 16 percent in tax equals $46.40. Someone got a good deal today – and it wasn’t me.

I should have bartered, haggled, played “Let’s Make a Deal” Mexican style.

But instead, I played stupid tourist and some little shop owner had a profitable day. Even if mine was his only sale (which I doubt).

What about you? Do you like to haggle for a better price? Or does the simplicity of what you see is what you pay appeal to you?

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