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How to Shop and Negotiate When Cruising Overseas – All Things Cruise

Shopping in the US is mostly an anonymous experience.  We buy online, which involves no human interaction, or we shop at a warehouse store where you know what you want to buy, put it in your cart and go through the automated checkout line.  Shopping in Europe and most of the rest of the world is different. Especially if you are on a cruise vacation in other parts of the world, consider these tips.

Shopping in General

When you visit Paris, one of the treats is shopping in food stores.  If you remember the nursery rhyme with the expression, “The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker” French shopping districts fit that expression pretty well.  It’s not limited to France. Napoleon once described England as a nation of shopkeepers.  Small business is alive and well.

When you enter a shop in France, it is customary to greet the proprietor.  You do not know them, but it’s a sign of respect, acknowledging their presence.  When you depart, you say goodbye to the shopkeeper, regardless of if you bought anything or not.  American tourists often get a bad rap because we do not understand engagement is expected.

Negotiating in Foreign Countries

You might be surprised to learn price tags have not been around forever.  John Wanamaker is credited with introducing them to his Philadelphia store in 1861.  Before then, you had to ask the price of an item.

If you are traveling in Asia, your hotel rate, taxi fares and restaurant meals generally have posted prices.  There is no negotiating.  If you are shopping in a street market, that’s a different story.  This holds for other parts of the world in situations like buying jewelry or visiting antiques and collectibles markets.

Negotiating is considered part of the sales process.  You are expected to banter back and forth about price.  A friend who worked for the US State department explained buying a rug in Turkey was often a three-day exercise!  Here are things you should know.

  1. If it is expensive, tea or coffee might be involved. If you are in an art gallery or jewelry store, there are often private areas with seating and the supplies for serving beverages.  It is customary to sit down and share a beverage as you negotiate.  This puts both buyer and seller on the same level.  Sharing food or beverages is a sign of hospitality.
  2. Respect is important. Like visiting food shops in Paris, acknowledging the person you are speaking with and discussing price is part of the ritual.
  3. Know what you are prepared to pay. When you negotiate, you are entering into a form of auction.  You should know your top limit.
  4. The stated price is the starting point. At the Saturday antiques market on Portobello Road in London, you might ask: “How much are you asking for this table?”  They usually tell you a little about the item and why it is worth the price they quoted.
  5. Be complimentary, then counter. You acknowledge it is a beautiful table.  You say other nice things about it.  You mention a lower price you were thinking about.  This is not the price you determined earlier you are willing to pay.  It’s lower.
  6. Listen for the counteroffer. There might not be one.  The price might be firm.  Be prepared to walk away.  They should come back with a lower price.  In Asia, where language might be an issue, the wording is almost identical.  “For you I have a special deal” or “You are my first customer of the day.  I will give you a special price.”
  7. Up your offer, perhaps mentioning factors that should reduce the price. Yes, it is a beautiful table, but it only has three original legs.  It looks like the fourth leg has been replaced (or is missing).
  8. Settle on a price. In British antique markets, getting a 10% to 20% discount is pretty good.  In Asian markets, I was floored to learn you listen to the price they quote, offer 20% of that number as your starting point and settle on about 40% of their original number.  If you are uncomfortable negotiating, you could politely ask: “Could you do a little better?”
  9. Ideally pay in cash. There are lots of reasons you do not want your credit card details captured at a street market.
  10. Always get a receipt. This should include a description confirming the item is what they say it is, the price you paid and the dealer’s details.  It helps if you want to sell it someday.  Near term, the Customs officials might want to know what you have spent.
  11. Have a plan for getting it home. Hopefully you are buying something that does not require shipping.  That can get expensive.

Buying articles overseas can be fun.  You are bringing tangible memories home.  You are doing your holiday shopping early.

Photo of Christmas Markets

Ed. Note: CruiseCompete and its member travel advisors provide many curated cruise deals, offers and amenities on over 50 cruise lines with over 500 cruise ships sailing all around the world. Browse Cruise Ships and Cruise Lines


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