Art And Skill Of Shopping

The Art and Skill of shopping. Yes it is an art, moving with finesse and skills interpreting gestures and tones to get the best price in the shortest length of time and actually enjoying the process. In Indonesia, this is all possible and will be a fun and exciting part of your adventure.

Get there early if you are in Bali and the Western part of Lombok, the first customer of the day sets the tone for that day’s business. If the shop keeper is successful in selling a product to their first interested customer, it means a good day of profitable business is ahead. It doesn’t matter on the first objects price, it is the sale that is important for them. Know what you want to buy, set your price and go get it, but don’t take too long as optimism might turn to frustration on the shop keeper’s side and you are then the messenger of a bad days business. Casual window shoppers in the morning are also a bad omen, so don’t pick things up if you are not going to buy them as with every object put back down, you are casting a spell of financial loss.
Shopping in Ubud art market, Bali
Shopping in Ubud art market, Bali (Source :

When to negotiate, when to haggle, when to ask for that discount is the first step. If there is no price tag that means the game is afoot. If you have to ask the shop assistant then the price is a fluid thing that increases and decreases depending on who asks. Sometimes, you will find a price tag displaying a strange code that can only be read by that gifted clerk following you around the store.

It is in the eyes. The world’s worst liers. After the words, “how much does it cost”, leave your lips, keep eye contact with the clerk, if they respond yet their eyes drift away to the floor then you have just heard the foreigners price not the local or real price. Don’t get annoyed, don’t get upset, most shop assistants get a very low salary ($100 US per month in most places is considered excellent) and will earn more commission off you paying a higher price. There are three ways to look at this: 1. pay the higher price and think of it as a tip, 2. start to negotiate and pit you skills against a pro; game on, 3. shout and scream about how unfair it is, embarrassing everyone and yourself and possibly destroying what was a fantastic holiday.

Game on. The negotiations really begin. Always ask for a discount. This word is now part of the Indonesian language. All you need say is “Discount?” The expectant look on your face does the rest. Pause, wait for it, wait, hold on, let them make the move first, deep breath. How much are they offering, still too much, onto phase 2.

They started high so you start low, remember keep it friendly, smile, be patient, don’t force. Try the concept; buy more for less, economies of scale. If i buy 2 what price will i get? Perhaps you don’t want two but their answer will give you a clearer idea of the real price for one.

The shoppers on Poppies street in Kuta, Bali
The shoppers on Poppies street in Kuta, Bali (Source :

Still no closer, explain why you want the product, a gift for little Jimmy since he broke his leg has been very unhappy. Most Indonesians especially women will go that extra mile for people that they like. If that clerk likes you, if you can make them smile they will do what they can for you.

Still not there yet, the walk away is needed. Explain to the person what you would like to pay for the product. Thank them and slowly walk away, if you can even throw in a tear that would be better. 50% of the time when you are 2 or 3 shops away they will come running after you saying Ok Ok OK. But you have to take that 50% risk of not getting what you want.

The Golden Rules :

  • Shop around – Move off the main streets.
  • Check Prices from other Vendors.
  • Be polite (being aggressive will only make things worse).
  • Ask them to write down prices to avoid translation issues.
  • Keeping Smiling.
  • Enjoy the Adventure.
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