Travel writer Richard Holmes has got haggling down to a fine art. Here’s his handy guide to bagging a bargain in Morocco’s Red City…
Try haggling over your weekly shop at the supermarket checkout, and you’ll probably find the store supervisor has been called before you can say ‘and that’s my very final offer’. But in the bustling souks of Morocco – and specifically the likes of Marrakech’s famous square, Jemaa el-Fna – negotiation is all part of the fun. So, how do you maintain haggling etiquette while still bagging yourself a bargain? Here are my top 5 tips for success…
1. Know the rules
Because negotiation is practically a formality in Moroccan markets, it’s worth remembering that the initial price usually reflects this. You may be eager to seal the deal, but the stall holder will expect you to try and barter first. So don’t shake on a deal too hastily. Just like in a game of poker, bluffing is all part of the ritual. Know when you’re being taken for a ride and when you really are on to a winner.
2. Body language is everything
Any psychologist will tell you we communicate primarily though body language. In fact, it counts for over 50 per cent of the way we’re perceived by others, so it’s something to consider when you’re mid-haggle. Present a cool, calm ‘I can take it or leave it’ exterior and you’ll be well on your way to taking home the bargain you want. Eagerly clasp the object of your desire as though it were a Byzantine relic and any perceptive stall holder will know you want it. Bad.
3. Learn the lingo
You may only be there for a week or 2, but showing an eagerness to understand the language may well play in your favour. Grab yourself a guide book and practise a few handy phrases to get yourself started. You’ll look less like the novice from out of town, for starters. And showing a little bit of respect for the local culture can go a long way.
4. Don’t be afraid to walk away
So you’ve haggled. And you’ve haggled hard. But there’s still no bargain in sight. What’s your next move? It might feel like a wrench, but now’s the time to walk away. The thing is, no matter how much you love that hand-carved Moroccan flute, it’s important to know when to give up. Who knows, you may well find a better price for a similar item a few stalls down. Or, more likely, the stall holder will call you back and offer you a better price.
5. Play fair
Haggling is largely expected and all part of the fun in Morocco. But try not to barter too hard. The average wage of a Moroccan stall holder isn’t high. So by all means aim for a good price and put your newfound negotiation skills to good use, but remember – you can offer a fair price and still take home a bargain at the same time.