I Will Never Haggle the Same Way Again

I’ve always been a strong haggler mainly because I can do away with the things that I usually bargain for. Most of the time, I would be haggling for souvenirs. Stuff for everyone else at home except myself, stuff I can do without. That gives me the power to walk away from the deal anytime I want and we all know that in the art of haggling, whoever has the ability to walk away from the deal always has the upper hand.


The small shop that taught me a rather valuable lesson

It was late in the afternoon and I was heading back to the hotel from what was supposed to be a biking tour to the Angkor Wat. The hotel was just across the river so I decided to check out one of the shops that opened early at one corner of the night market and maybe buy some souvenirs. I had just parked my bicycle right outside the shop and before I could put on the chains on the rear tire, a woman came up to me and said “yes sir? you want keychain?”. I gotta give it to her, those eagle-eyes must’ve spotted me from a distance checking on the keychains displayed right near the entrance of her shop. I told her there was nothing particular I was looking for and that I was just browsing around. I thought for a second that she believed me but she was a bit insistent about the keychain. But I’m not gonna deny it, I was actually there for those keychains.


The 3rd Shop from the Southeast corner of the old market in Siem Reap. Notice the guy at the entrance wearing red. That’s him!

So I started checking the display and after awhile I picked up a set of 6 keychains and asked her how much it was, in which she promptly replied “5 dollars”. I felt it was a bit too expensive since I got the same kind of keychains in Kuala Lumpur for a lot less. I returned it and started browsing through the pile of ref magnets. Sensing that I was not interested enough, she said “okay, I give you 4 dollars. Very cheap”. But I knew it was still a little high so I just went on with my business. Then she proceeded to say “okay, okay, for you 3 dollars”. This time, I thought that was a fair price but I still need to buy a ref magnet for my mom’s collection so I just smiled and continued checking on other designs. She must’ve felt that I wasn’t really that interested in the keychains, she left attended to the 2 European ladies checking her scarves. Even I can tell that they were leaving with those scarves no matter what. Even if they don’t get discounts but every now and then they would try to haggle for a bit.

When she left, a man(I’m guessing her husband) came up to me to help me make up my mind about the ref magnet designs. He was relatively soft-spoken despite his bigger-than-normal built. By that time I already knew what design I wanted for the magnet and of course the keychain. I just didn’t want to be that obvious. It was nothing but a scheme to get a cheaper price for both items. They also had one of those long-sleeved shirts that I had always wanted so I checked for other designs as well. I found a plain white one with a little bit of embroidered designs along the neckline, it was perfect for me so I asked again “How much?”. She grabbed her calculator and pressed “8”. I knew she was expecting me to give her a counter offer but I didn’t say anything. I just stared at the number she had typed. To be honest, I think 8 dollars was a decent price for that shirt but I was still yearning for a better price. I think by then my body language was too obvious and so she said “7 dollars sir”. It took me awhile to respond because another shirt caught my attention but just as I was about to give her my counter offer of $5, she beat me to it.  She said “okay sir, 8 dollars for the shirt the keychains and the magnet”. Wow, that was cheap! But then all of a sudden I was no longer interested in the keychains and the magnet. I don’t even know why… so I asked in my best broken english “just for shirt, how much?”. She said “okay 6 dollars sir, best price”. I would’ve paid 8 for it but then she just continued outbid herself every time I start straying away from that corner until she got to $3. Now even I thought that was a bit low. She knew it and I knew it but she still gave me that lowball of a price even if I no longer asked for it. But I still went back to the keychains and the magnets to strike deal with her husband. To make this already long story short, her husband agreed to give me the 6 keychains and a ref magnet for $3. Another lowball. By now the fickle me decided that I wanted the shirt too so I said “so that’s 6 dollars for all?”. The husband said “no, 8” and so I pointed to the lady who was busy rearranging the scarves and told him “she said it was 3 dollars”. They both convened and agreed that it was $6 dollars for all the items. While she continued to rearrange the scarves, the lady started murmuring. I could hear it from my corner and it was only getting louder. I can tell she was pissed but she was too professional in dealing with it so she didn’t turn to me but instead addressed her louder rants to her husband who felt like he had his hands tied. In the end, no matter how mad she was and how little the profit they got from the sale, if there was even any profit left after the hard deal, they still agreed to my selfish demands.


What $6 can buy at the expense of an invaluable conscience

I already felt bad by that time as I looked at her husband’s eyes from behind my dark glasses. I gave him a 10-dollar bill and he pulled out a mix of Riels and Dollars from his pocket. He took 1 dollar after another and as soon as he handed me 2, I told him to just give me one more. That was my undoing. I know it wasn’t enough for all the trouble I caused them but the extra dollar brought back a little smile to his face and a huge chunk of my conscience. I just smiled and said thank you and happy new year. The whole thing kept replaying inside my head as I pedaled across the river. I still feel bad about it and I don’t think it would be polite to go back to the shop and give them back their money so I hope this blog might help clear my conscience a little more and serve as a reminder to other people out there trying to hustle shop owners who are busy making an honest living.

We might think that a good bargain is one where we get the cheapest price for a product. But really, the only thing bigger than that discount we got is our ego. Most of the people running these kind of business have their own children to feed. They could use the extra dollar, the extra quarter or even that extra cent more than we do. So remember, Haggle for a FAIR price, not a CHEAP price.


This goes out to you Sir and Ma’am. This is my Apology. You won’t hear it from me and you might not see this post but trust me, this is as heartfelt as can be. Again, I’m so sorry!

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  1. Claire says:

    “Haggle for a FAIR price, not a CHEAP price.” –> Very true. Thanks for sharing your story to learn from.

  2. IndieEscape says:

    Conscience sucks! haha..
    I was like that, too. Years ago, I would’ve haggled sellers dry.
    But these days, I have acquiesced to ‘tourist’ prices – as long as I feel I’m paying for it at a FAIR price (not CHEAP).
    Kudos for this post! I hope it reaches the seller (maybe another traveler can point this out when he reaches Siem Reap) :)

  3. Potato says:

    Hey there Writer! This was wonderfully written, I’m always in the lookout for great blogs, I think I just found a new one 😀

    I am not very good at haggling :( I rarely do so mostly because I’m very shy.


  1. […] save can mean a meal or a significant expense for the local you buy it from. One traveler recounts his story in remorse on how he was able to get the cheapest price at the cost of his […]

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