The Do’s and Don’ts of Bartering in Mexico

Mexico is filled with open markets and so many beautiful items from pottery to handmade crafts to jewelry. It’s almost impossible to visit Mexico and not see something you want to bring home.  Mexico’s culture is all about bartering for goods and services. You see it in the open markets, vendors on the beach, even taxis. Bartering makes some people uncomfortable but it is very much part of what the Mexican culture likes to do. You never realize how many friends you have until you walk through an open market in Mexico as you hear things like “for you, my friend, special price” and “mi amigo, almost free!” and “cheaper than Walmart.”
There are good and bad ways to barter and we’re going to show you how to do it successfully.

  • Do be respectful – While bartering is part of the fun, there is no reason to be rude or pushy.  Many people working as vendors make very little money.
  • Don’t pay full price – craft markets usually mark everything up 100% because they expect some haggling to go on. A good place to start is 50% off the asking price.
  • Do have a price in mind – get an idea of what your max price would be and keep it in your head. Also, keep in mind that some things may seem like they should be inexpensive but aren’t because of the materials or handmade process that went into making it.
  • Don’t back down after a price is negotiated – Once you have agreed upon a fair price, stick to your word and buy the goods.
  • Do be prepared to walk away – If the vendor is not willing to come down on the price to what you feel is fair, walk away. More often than not, they will wave you back and agree to your offer.
  • Don’t bargain for fruits and vegetables and street tacos – these things are already incredibly inexpensive and often times, this is their only source of income.
  • Do buy in bulk – you can always get a better price when buying in bulk, so if you and a friend both want a poncho, aks for a better price for two.
  • Don’t buy the item right away – if you see something you like, shop around before making the purchase. You may find it cheaper from a different vendor.  The further away you are from touristy places, the less expensive things get.
  • Do thank them – showing a little gratitude always makes someone’s day. Finish up with a “muchas gracias” and a smile as you leave.

Keep in mind that while bargaining is part of the culture, trying to get them down to save a buck means little to you, but can make all the difference to them.  If the item you want seems fair priced, to begin with, don’t haggle it. If you do negotiate down and its the difference between one dollar to you, it’s more to them as they are paid so little. Enjoy and have fun but respect that they are just trying to make a living and feed their family.

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