The Art of Haggling: How to Score Bargain Deals in the Philippines

Haggling in Manila and the Philippines is both a skill and an art that requires one to read between the lines and have a little bit of guts.

Go unprepared and you’re bound to get that standard “350 but for you it’s only 300” price or worse, get a starting “tourist price”. Go a little bit too stubborn of a cheapskate and you risk not getting the last stock you’ve been eyeing since earlier that day.

Although discounts are usually not a lot, those can add up if you’re on a mega bargain shopping spree and of course, no one can say no to a great deal, right? The fun is in the haggling so if you wish to at least try or brush up on your haggling skills, here are some pointers to your mastery of the art of haggling.

  • Know where you CAN and CANNOT haggle

    Before haggling, of course it helps to know where it is acceptable to haggle. These are places where you are actually expected to haggle, and these are generally mom and pop shops where prices can always be agreed upon between you and the seller. These places are tiangges (bargain shops), palengke (public markets), and ukay-ukay (second hand shops). Places where you cannot haggle are department stores and almost all shops in a mall as prices are all final and the decision- maker most of the time is nowhere in sight.

  • Haggle in Tagalog or Have a Local with You

    If you are a foreigner or if you look like one, chances are you’ll be given the “tourist price”. But there’s a way out of this: have a local friend with you who will usually be more than happy to do the haggling for you and try to stay out of the picture, as if you do not know each other. If you do not have a local friend with you, then you’re bound to do it yourself: dress modestly, be respectful when asking, and brush up on your Tagalog language skills:

    • Magkano po ito? – How much is this?
    • Pahingi po ng tawad. – Discount, please.
    • Salamat po. – Thank you.
  • Decide how much you’re willing to pay…

    …then trade prices back and forth until you both arrive at a number you’re both comfortable with. Ask for the final price to see if it’s something you’re ok with.

  • If the final price doesn’t sound well, ask if you can agree on another deal

    Usually if you’re buying two or more items from a single store, it’s more likely for you to get a bigger discount. So if you’re not satisfied with the final price of a single item, come up with a more creative deal by including other items in it.

  • Dress the part

    More often than not, sellers size you up the moment you arrive at their stores.

  • Compare prices

    Do not go for the first stall you see. Usually when going to bargain shopping centers, there are probably a lot of other stores selling the same item. Go around first and ask. See how much the price difference is and decide which store can give you the lowest price possible.

  • Carry small bills

    Just because it’s harder to haggle and prove the part when you’re carrying crisp 1,000 peso bills or paying with a credit card.

  • Be friendly and respectful

    And flash those pearly whites, too. Sellers love it when you haggle with a friendly smile. It helps when building rapport, ultimately making it easier for you to get a good deal.

  • Haggle like a seasoned bargain shopper

    It’s all in the confidence and aura. Know what you want and know which price is acceptable to you, or at least try to act like if you know it.

  • Keep your cool

    Ask nicely, and know that you have tons of other options around so don’t fret.

  • If all things fail, be prepared to walk away (nicely)

    If the last price is not ok with you, then tell the owner that you’re going to ask somewhere else first. If the price you’re asking is reasonable enough, seller might lure you back in with a price lower than previously asked because they’d rather make a sale than lose it.

Haggling Haggle Get Bargain Shopping Manila Philippines Greenhills

Forming a little bond with the seller is key.

The power of being a Suki

“Suki” in Filipino basically means “regular customer”. If you’re a suki, chances are you’re bound to get discounts only for loyal regulars and if you come to think of it, today’s rewards points systems are much the same, only this time the “suki” system is much more personal and requires a connection between the seller and the buyer.

Nowadays almost everyone who stops by a shop is almost automatically a suki by default so it’s hard to get that real suki price (unless you are a genuine suki the store owner sees every so often), but if you really want to snag an item at a friendlier price, the trick here is to buy something while haggling a bit, then chit chat with the seller plus exchange smiles before you go. It could also help if you make a deal with the owner to give you a bigger discount when you come back to buy the next time. Come back the same day or the day after – make sure though that it’s not long enough for the store to forget you – again flash a smile, chit chat with and woo the store owner a bit then ask for that much awaited suki discount (not guaranteed, though). The key to becoming a suki is to establish good rapport with the seller. For all these, make sure that you’re speaking with the store owner or someone who is a decision-maker, else all your efforts go straight down the drain.

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