As a tourist, negotiating in a country like the Dominican Republic can be important, and fun. On my recent trip to D.R., I saved a ton of money by negotiation, but probably spent just as much extra out of the fun of it.
The US Dollar is equivalent to about 42.5 Dominican pesos. American money grows in leverage when you note that many people are paid around $200 USD per month to cover shelter, food and clothing.
Here are a few steps I took in negotiating abroad:
- Start all interactions with a friendly but stern attitude, and keep that throughout your interactions.
- Understand the basics necessary in the native language (dollars, more, less, yes, no, numbers, and so on).
- Understand the power of your currency (conversion rates are a start, but more importantly, understand how much $1 means to the local people as part of their monthly income. This will take some research speaking to locals and/or those educated in the true culture of the region you are visiting).
- Walk into any transaction with the reality that you may have to walk away without it.
- Either let them make an offer first and then make your offer, or start unreasonably low but with some interest in what they are selling. If you are aware through a sign, overhearing a conversation, or from other sellers an item typically costs $15, don’t offer $15! Don’t even offer $10. If you make an offer first, say $5 at most. This initial offer adjusts with your experiences, comfort level, and goal.
- Stay firm at your unreasonably low offer. They are going to try to break you or dismiss you from the start. You may have to offend someone here a bit.
- Let them give you an alternative amount they would offer. If it starts at $15 and you said $5, they will likely offer $10. After further negotiation, move your offer up enough to keep yourself happy, but let them feel victory, even if small. At this point, it could be around $7-8.
- If there is no interest in meeting your offer on his/her end, politely end the negotiation.
- a) If possible, visit others selling similar items. Run through the same routine. Even if it doesn’t work, or you don’t entirely want that item, it will make the original vendor notice and build some of their anxiety to sell to you. You can always cancel this new transaction once the original individual approaches you again. They don’t always, however, so be ready to be the one to re-engage even if just to say goodbye. Remember, your demeanor should have been friendly but stern.
b) Approach your transportation, whether tour bus, car, or simply walking away. Make it obvious you are prepared to leave.
- Take home your prize for your price — or don’t, and find the next opportunity. If you win them all, you probably aren’t doing it right.
– A woman was selling necklaces (see picture) in a tourist area outside of a large church. She had one person from my tour group get her down to $10 for two necklaces after negotiation.
– I didn’t know this at this time. When she already dropped the price $20 to $10, it made it much more difficult to negotiate. When she approached me, I threw out $3 (unreasonably low offer).
– She replied absolutely not, and explained how much she usually sells them for, $20 for two.
– I showed her which I wanted (indicating some interest), but I would only pay $4 (increased offer; imply they are winning).
– She wouldn’t budge given my offer. I wished her a good day and stepped to the bus (be ready to walk away, and clearly indicate that you are doing so).
– She called me back and accepted my offer of $4 (enjoy your prize, and the fun in negotiating).
Using a similar technique, my girlfriend was able to negotiate to get my hair braided for only $20, as opposed to the original $60 rate we were given. Unfortunately, I can’t speak in detail about her tactics of accomplishing this (the entire conversation was in Spanish and I am nowhere near capable of understanding two fluent speakers converse!). Either way — she did well!
Side Note: People in low-income countries often struggle and work tirelessly to make money necessary to live. This activity of negotiating for such low-cost results may oppose last week’s post about gratuities, but that is part of the balance of life — trying to find the best mix of good for yourself and others among you.
“The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way.” – Henry Boyle
Safe travels, and have fun negotiating!