Should you Bargain When you Retire or Travel in Mexico?

My husband and I were just talking about bargaining with vendors who sell handcrafts in Morelos. He came to an important conclusion that I thought I should add to this section on being conscientious guests in Mexico.

Many tourists believe that they have to bargain with vendors, but my husband has noticed that this bothers most vendors. Most vendors in Morelos (and possibly other places throughout Mexico) now give the going price when asked how much for something. They are not inflating the price in order to give room for bargaining, as we outsiders believe. Bargaining is pretty silly anyway. For many purchases it may be a matter of about $1.00 U.S. or less! Why be “stingy”?

Still, I think that a long time ago I may have read somewhere that I might insult the seller by not bargaining with him/her. This may be old intel. on Mexico, or possibly is true in certain regions of Mexico and not in others. It may be possible that people used to bargain a lot more than they do now because my husband remembers that when we first moved here he used to try to bargain too, but has since stopped instead opting for the price survery (see below). Anyway, we can’t quite figure out where the belief comes from but people from the country north of Mexico think that a Mexican vendor is automatically quoting them an inflated price–and since they have no idea what the going price is for things, they can’t tell if their assumption is correct or not.

However the belief got started, bargaining seems to be less appropriate then outsiders expect. At this point in my experience on Mexico, my personal recommendation to all people who travel or retire in Mexico is that you shouldn’t bargain.

Still, vendors can say any price that they want. Our friends told us that prices are consistently higher in Cabo San Lucas whenever a cruise ship can be seen anchored near the marina. So what do you do in order to know if a price is “fair”? You take a price survey.

How To Conduct a Price Survey So You Can Avoid Bargaining

If you want to purchase a particular type of item you need to know how much it should cost you. That way you can either pay the asking price or not.

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You find this out by asking around about the price of similar items. Stop at shops, point to items like the one you want and ask, “Disculpe. ?Cuánto cuesta este?” Smile. Listen to the price. Keep a straight face, say “gracias,” and gently walk away. Do this at a variety of places. If you have the time you can compare the more touristy areas with others such as the local market. (for example, in Cuernavaca blankets are less expensive at the stands near the food market than they are in near the zocalo–but not substantially so).

Once you have heard enough prices to tell what the price should be, you can return to a vendor of your choice and actually purchase the item.

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