Kids and Bartering

On our recent trip Backpacking around Asia with our girls, there were plenty of trips to markets and lots of things the girls wanted to buy. Shopping at the markets in Asia was a bit different to our local markets here in Cairns. The girls learned all about bartering, and had a ball negotiating with the stall holders for all the lovely little trinkets they bought!  It did take some getting used to for them though, and lots of practice runs over family meals.
Here's what we learned.

I want it!
As soon as something interesting, cute or just different is within reach the 'can I have it?' reflex is triggered.  Once the item has been touched, a kid has assimilated it into their set of meagre belongings and in their mind, already owns it.  They just need assistance in buying it.  Basically, the deal is done.  The child has taken the item into their world, possesses it and will fight to keep it.  Isn't possession nine tenths of the law?  Removing the item leads to discomfort, distress and in some cases tantrums and the potential for WWIII.

Cultural Differences
When visiting an Asian country these points can become magnified.  In countries where price isn't always fixed at markets, showing by example and teaching the fluidity of price and the way money works can begin to occur.

In Western life browsing and window shopping is not usually the norm for kids.  If they get their hands on a desired item, it inevitable leads to a sale.  Just think product positioning an any local supermarket.  Often In a market the price is three times the 'real' price to start with, so the understanding is something novel and to be learned about and understood.

Finding a key ring, scarf or t-shirt when a kid knows they are going to get one leads to a conundrum.  Set aside the fact that the item is already cheap, the idea of getting 'ripped off' or paying too much unnecessarily is ingrained.  Also it is likely to push up the price for everyone if an inflated price is just accepted and paid by everyone.  Think of the majority of goods in Australia, the UK, USA etc

Learning Bartering Skills
To allow kids to go shopping in this new environment can only really be done with a prior explanation and role play.  If the scenario is played out by parents (modelled) the kids can see how a likely dialogue may go and the pitfalls to be avoided- and it can be a hilarious activity too!

Starting with a smile and a simple greeting is first.
Asking generally about prices would follow to get a ballpark price (perhaps in numerous shops) before zeroing in on an item which may be bought.  Helping kids understand that the initial price is usually 2 or 3 times the accepted price needs to be learned in a place where 'ticketed' price is not available.  Also, getting local knowledge or feedback from other tourists is a great idea.  We also need to remember that the acceptable price is when the shopkeeper and yourself agree.  There is no point holding animosity after a price has been agreed upon and a transaction is completed.

Showing children that visiting a few shops or stalls is a good way to build confidence and find a happy and friendly place for the purchase to be made!

Once the initial inflated price has been given by the shopkeeper, it is normal to counter with a smile, or rolled eyes with an extremely low price.  Often the next stage is when you are asked, "OK, so what will you pay?"  This needs answered perhaps 25-50% less than what you think you will pay.  A great lesson in arithmetic and a quick way to show how Western mathematic skill is decreasing through recent years!  The offer and counter offering usually continues fairly rapidly before a slightly overinflated price is reached.  it is then often best to politely excuse yourself and move to exit the store.  At this time you will often be offered a cheaper price.  If acceptable, OK buy away!!  If not, pause and ask for the 'last price' .  Once this has been given there is really no further negotiation.  You either buy or leave.

It is also important to be aware of how many you want of an item as you can get a much better or worse price depending on your bartering skills, knowledge of market value and the quantity of items you actually end up buying.  always be sure you have prior knowledge of the expected price (just like doing your homework prior to a house auction!!) for all items you are going to purchase.  Buyer beware.

So, in summary

Be prepared, know 'the price'
Enjoy the bartering process
Only enter into serious bartering if you intend to buy- this should ensure both buyer and seller leave happy.

Enjoying the experience and sharing it with the kids should be a goal.  
During the process the kids will learn valuable economic, mathematics, arithmetic and negotiation skills.  This is a great life-learning experience and opportunity.

Have your kids ever had the experience bartering for goods - perhaps on holidays? We'd love to hear of other people's experiences!


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