I enjoyed an interesting chat with friend and colleague Mary Anne, a travel consultant here at Journey Latin America who’s originally from Chile and a complete expert in the region. We were talking about our favourite markets in Latin America and how varied the stalls can be depending on which country you’re in and Mary Anne pointed out the huge cultural differences too, particularly relating to haggling.
Did you know that it’s not polite to haggle in a lot of the market places in Chile? If you’ve spent a lot of time in Central America this is quite a surprising concept - a reasonable amount of haggling takes place in most of the markets and a bit of negotiation seems anticipated by everyone that works there. So, it’s handy to know that on holiday in Chile (and much of the southern cone of Latin America) you’ll be surrounded by a completely different etiquette.
Even though haggling isn't not common Mary Anne did offer some top tips to ensure that you’re getting the right price for your shopping:
When haggling in Chile it’s important to always be polite and courteous using phrases like: “me encanta, pero es muy caro” (I love this but it’s very expensive) and “y no me puede hacer una rebajita?” (can you give me a small discount?).
I agree that these phrases are a great way to politely test the water to see if a slight discount could be on the cards. The phrase “y me puede dar esto de yapa?”* (can you throw this in for free) comes in handy for smaller items, but again you have to be polite and if the answer’s ‘no’ accept the answer and move on.
Finally, it’s very important to keep in mind that while visiting Chiloé Island you have to be more careful about asking for discounts. Chilotas are really proud people and they could get offended and refuse any negotiation with you if you try to haggle with them. Remember that people are selling their work and even though it’s sometimes difficult to know if you’re paying the right price it’s always important to be respectful.
What are your experiences of haggling in Latin America? Do you find it hard to know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not? I think it’s something many of us struggle with, so please do share your experiences and tips with us too!
*In Colombia this would be: “y me puede dar esto de ñapa?” – the phrase varies depending on the region.