Your script for bargaining in Southeast Asia 

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After ten weeks on the road, we now have a script.  We perform it every day, without fail.  Sometimes we switch roles:

Alice: How much is this? 

Vendor, tuk-tuk driver, etc.: (names price)

Me: (frowns) Hmm.  

Alice: Oh, that’s too much.  

Me: (motions) Come on, let’s go.  

Vendor: How much will you pay? 

Me: No, it’s…(furrows brow)

Alice: (looks at me to shut me up) (names price, 1/2 of what they are asking)

Vendor: Too low!  (Names new price, Alice and vendor haggle, while I try to pull her away, or feign interest in something else. Finally, the vendor offers a final price.)

Alice: What do you think? 

Me: (If I think it’s a good deal, I will say, “Eloise would like it.”  If I don’t, I tell her I don’t think it’s a good deal.  Either they agree or we walk away; usually as we walk away, they will name a price lower than the original price we started from.) 

The good buyer/bad buyer routine has probably saved us $500 over the last few months.  I’ve also become much more comfortable negotiating; I feel as if this would have been phenomenal training from when I was very young, because in the west, we’re generally not taught to question other peoples’ positions or bargain hard for our own interests.  The world here – and probably everywhere – is a negotiable place; we just have to make sure that we negotiate from our own position, smile and laugh, have fun, and not take it too seriously.  I hope my children take a trip like this when they are 16, and learn to bargain ruthlessly for everything, because it will serve them well for the rest of their lives.  

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