It’s the holiday season, even in Thailand. Christmas decorations are everywhere and the Thais love celebrating the New Year. Most tourists and expats like to shop here because they can get great bargains, so you should know how to ask for one!
Download MP3 to listen offline here
One of the unusual things Westerners have to adapt to here is the bargaining culture. Thais love to talk and with the talking comes the bartering, haggling and negotiating. For the most part is it fun, so don’t take it too seriously.
เท่าไหร่/ tâo rài/ how much?
กี่บาท/ gèe bàat/ how much?
ลดได้มั้ย/ lót dâai máai/ Can I have a discount?
Most tourists and expats already know how to ask for price and discount. Sometimes the vendor will ask you how much you’d like to pay. I’ve been told to ask for half the price. So if something is 600 baht to ask for 300. I don’t say this as a rule of thumb, but as a warning not to go too low. I’ve insulted vendors before by asking for too much of a discount.
Then of course, the vendor will offer something like 550 and you can go back and forth negotiating the price of your desired object. Remember to keep it light. Some vendors will seem “stingy” but through haggling you can generally come to a consensus or agreement. It’s popular in Thailand to have the seller show you a calculator with the desired price. You could also bring a good bargaining partner. Some of my friends are very good at negotiating and shopping in Thailand. My friend Julia, on the other hand was horrible. She kept agreeing with the vendor! or maybe it’s a saving face thing.
Also, don’t show too much interest. At least that is what I learned from my mom, be willing to walk away.
My mom arrived in the United States when she was 23 years old from Thailand. So culturally she was and still is very Thai. After my father died unexpectedly 10 years later, she found herself with 2 kids in a foreign country. She had to become a single mother, an independent woman.
I remember when we had to buy a new car. My brother and I were waiting FOREVER for her to negotiate with the car dealer. By nightfall, my little brother and me were waiting outside of the Ford dealership sitting on the sidewalk.
Then all of a sudden my mom walked outside, “Let’s go.”
We got up.
“Finally!” We cheered.
“Did we get the car?”
“No. They want too much. Let’s go.”
We started to walk away when one of the salesmen came out the glass doors yelling, “Mrs. Cox! Mrs. Cox! Come back! Come back!”
My mom grabbed us in an urge to keep going. Then I heard it in the salesman’s voice, “Okay! Let’s do it! We can do it.”
She stopped and then probably said something like, “Really?”
I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were finally free. But we turned back around.
Any protesting would have been met with ตามใจ/dtam jai which translates to “follow your heart” but it’s closer to the English idiom “suit yourself.” She was getting the car, we needed a car, so we children waited some more.
But I watched and learned that day, and remembered so when I graduated college I knew I wanted HER to be there with me. And yes, there was a repeat performance…
sòok săn wan krís-mâs
กี่/ gèe/ how much ; how many
บาท/ bàat/ the Thai currency
ลด/ lót/[to] lower ; reduce ; decrease
ได้/ dâai/ can ; be able to
มั้ย/máai/ particle used to turn a statement into a question, similar
to a question mark)
ไม่ได้/mâi dâai /can not
ไม่/mâi/ no ; not
อัน/an/ piece ; slice ; part (อัน is a classifier used for many small objects.)
สุขสันต์/sòok săn/happy, merry