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Bargaining in South Africa

For experienced hagglers, negotiating the price of some small treasure in the marketplace that has caught the eye is likely to prove less satisfying, in South Africa, than in many other parts of the world.

It’s not that you can’t pry small concessions from the informal traders who are keen to see you walk away with an armful of their curios, it’s that the thrill of combat, in whittlling the price down to the best deal possible, will likely be missing from the transaction. Traders here simply don’t enjoy bargaining – and their prices aren’t so inlfated that they have a lot of leeway to clinch a sale. If something costs R50 at the outset, odds are, that’s what you’ll pay for it in the end.

Strangely enough, however, the same doesn’t always apply to formal traders in shops. If you’re buying a major item like a diamond or a sculpture, or even just a very good bottle of wine, you can often extract significant discounts from an eager-to-please salesperson – who, after all, has to bear in mind that the jeweller, gallery or wine shop ’round the corner might be more flexible in its pricing.

I know of people who’ve beaten down prices inside Cape Town and Joburg shops by as much as fifty percent – leaving owners shaking their heads, but not quite having lost all the gleam in their eyes!