As I sat down in the conference room of my new office in Lagos, waiting for the meeting to start, I overheard one of the gentlemen (an Oyinbo) telling our client that he needed to get some souvenirs from Lagos to take back home to his wife. He was, however, worried that the prices will be inflated because of his skin colour.
Our client laughed out loud and quickly said to him, “feign surprise!” Feign surprise? Yes, feign surprise! And he went on to act like he was having a heart attack or some kind of cardiac episode with his hand on his chest, as though to pin his heart back to its rightful position, his eyes and mouth wide open. We all laughed at the theatrics. But boy, was he right?
Lagos (or my Lagos as I like to call it) is known for being fast-paced. If you are not careful, even people who are supposed to be your friends would exploit you at every given opportunity. And yes, a lot of that happens with people quoting ridiculous prices at local markets.
Being skillful with haggling is definitely a plus. And most of it is learnt over time, with experience. But for those who do not have the patience (or the cash) to learn from experience, here are a few tips. Most of it is based on personal experience. I’ll just get right to it…
Whatever price you are given first, just scream in surprise, as my dear client rightly advised. Do this especially when you have no idea how much the item ordinarily costs. ‘Madam, how much is this necklace?’ My dear, it’s N700 oh! Now, it’s time for action. You just go ahead and scream… Seven what? I still bought this thing last week. But my sister saw it and liked it. She took it from me. That’s why I came to buy it again.
Yes, after screaming in surprise, if you are in the mood, you may go ahead to introduce some alternative facts. You did not buy the item last week. Indeed, you have no sister. But you have to make the seller feel like you know what you are doing.
The seller would probably ask you how much you bought it last week. Then, you give her some ridiculous price (compared to the one she offered). She may say “okay” right away. “Bring money” (which is suspect too – we will get to that). Or she may just say “No. It’s not this necklace you bought for N100. Last price I can sell is N250″. You may do the back and forth for a while and buy for between N100 and N250.
Sometimes too, when you are bargaining, you offer to buy at some price and it’s the seller’s turn to feign surprise. They say things like ‘you try’, ‘na money’, ‘I no even buy am for that price’ or my favourite when the item you are bargaining over is a pair of shoes and you offer to buy at a price and they go… ‘N500? For one leg abi wetin?’
Don’t let all those spook you. The seller would still sell to you at the price he claimed was less than the cost price. And he would still make a clean profit. No need to be worried that you are not letting the seller get a good bargain. Remember, in the market place, there are lots of alternative facts.
Let me quickly mention that if you are really serious about this haggling thing and getting the best bargain, you need to leave your shame at home. Or in the car (if you can’t do without shame for that long). Basically, just keep it somewhere before walking up to the seller. Very Important!
I say leave your shame at home because, if you have shame, you won’t be able to confidently offer to pay N100 for something the seller called N1000. Or N2,000 for something that was called N10,000. That confidence is very important. If the seller sees that you are unsure or hesitating someone, the seller would exploit that.
So the seller accepted your first counter offer immediately? Then there is a problem somewhere.
Buyer: “Oga, how much for jeans?”
“Oga jeans goes for N2,000”
Then the seller says “Oga bring money”
Just know that you have messed up. What are you doing asking for only a N200 reduction? Most times, at the very least, half the price. Sometimes, offer to pay one-fourth of the price. As the spirit leads.
Anyway, the seller has said “bring money“. You are in a fix. It’s bad but it’s not fatal. With a straight face, just say something like N800. The seller may be pissed but at least you can start haggling all over again.
A seller’s acceptance of the first offer is one red flag you don’t want to ignore. Ever.
The walk away. I don’t like this trick because I think it involves too much drama. I am happy to act film here and there but this film acting shouldn’t be too much.
So what is the walk away? You already bargained with the seller and you both have seemed to reach an impasse. You then walk away with the hope that the seller would call you back if the price you offered is reasonable.
“Oya come, I don’t sell this dress for N8,000 oh. It’s Turkey. Everything is expensive now. Dollar don cost. In fact ehn, someone just left here now and offered to pay N10,000. I did not sell it to her. But just bring money ehn. I haven’t sold anything today. This dress is N12,000 honestly….” And so on and so forth.
Sellers know how to come up with alternative facts too. It’s not only you. And you pay N8,000. You are happy. But don’t be surprised when you find the exact same dress for N7,000 in the next store.
Anyway, that’s the first walk away scenario. But there is a second type of walk away.
You walked away. (And did I mention you have to walk slowly?) As you take one careful, slow and deliberate step after another, the seller just turns his back on you and does not call you back.
“Ah, what have I done? This is the exact shade of burgundy shorts that I need for the beach party on Saturday. I have looked everywhere for it. Nothing even comes close. And now I walked away because of a N50 price difference. And the seller did not even call me back. This sun is so hot. And I am sweating buckets as usual. The map of sweat on my top is just embarrassing. I have already had two bottles of Pepsi and one bottle of water since I got here at 9.30 a.m. It’s already 2.50p.m. My pack of Paloma tissues is almost out too bla bla bla.”
Then, you slowly swallow your pride and go back and ask the seller (with a straight face) to give you the shorts. The seller starts putting the shorts in a black plastic bag. Aunty, if that price wey you call reach, I for don call you back. You say okay. Then you pay and leave.
Another tip that works like magic. Language. Speak the language of the seller, if you can. I tell my friends that like speaking Queen’s English in the local markets that the sellers will collect all their money.
First, some (yeah, not all) sellers automatically think you are an “Alakowe” who has a lot of money or can easily be manipulated. So when an item is N500 and they tell “normal” people that it is N2,500, they will probably tell the oyinbo-speaking lady that it is N4,000.
And why not? They have tried it several times in the past. And the oyinbo-speaking lady agreed right away and even expressed surprise that it was so cheap. And bought all of the remaining items.
So, when I say speak the language of the seller, I don’t just mean speak Yoruba or Ibo. Tell them things that calm them down, things they want to hear. And no, these things don’t even take time. I can already hear someone say ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’. In 30 seconds or less, you can be through with it.
So with a Yoruba woman, you can say something like ‘mummy e ka san ma. Bawo lo ja? Se orun yi o poju? Mummy eelo le n ta a won isu yi?’ (Good afternoon ma. How is the business going? Hope the sun is not too much. Mummy, how much do you sell these tubers of yam?) All the while smiling and all.
She may still overcharge you but it is not very likely and if she does overcharge you, it won’t be by too much. She may even just plead with you to just help her add money to sweeten the deal.
There are so many other tips such as the “All I have left” trick, the “I have no time to waste” etc.
Haggling can be fun or not, depending on your mood. I have found that it is easier to haggle when you have an idea how much an item costs. So always try to find out from an independent source before you start haggling.
Also, I saw somewhere, and I actually agree, that you do not always have to haggle. There are some sellers you see by the roadside, struggling to make ends meet, probably only selling bananas and groundnuts. I know most of us are struggling to make these ends meet too but for some people, the ends are much further apart than for others. So in cases like that, just forget haggling excessively. You can pay the asking price, even if you know you can buy for much less than that. Let’s call it charity!
If you have any further tips on how to get the best bargain, I would love to hear them! Drop a comment.
Mobola Lawal or “Omobola Smith” as I fondly call her is a corporate lawyer and a budding writer. She is also an avid reader and a very dear friend. I’m going to get her to post regularly.
Remember, I said, in our 1 year anniversary post, that we will have more guest posts on the blog. So, if you have any posts you’d love to share, hit me up.
Also, I just realised that a lot of people attended their schools’ reunion over the holiday. How was it? Was it memorable?
All my love,