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#119 Bargaining

December 16, 2011

Submitted by A.M.O.


Haggling is a key part of the EAW’s daily experience. Few arenas rival it for showing off your arguing chops and local savvy. Whether you’re dealing with a driver or street vendor, only the greenest of novice EAWs accept the given price. Want to impress your new co-workers or that hot EAW you plan on seeing again at the MSF party? Then bust out your abacus and your best theatrics. It’s time to haggle.

While the 750 CFA your moto driver may have quoted won’t make too much of a dent in your per-diem, it’s about the principle, not the price. The bane of a seasoned EAW’s existence is paying the Mzungu/Gora/Blan price. All this price disparity does is reinforce post-colonial stereotypes and send the wrong message to the locals. Getting the vendor to charge you the local price will probably score you enough integration points to make up for living in a guarded compound. Hell, after you knock out the foreigner price, pick up some local garb and don’t forget to go native once in a while, you should be ready to pick up a new citizenship.

In addition to stickin’ it to the vendors and turning that per-diem into much-needed beer money, bargaining provides the EAW with yet another avenue to establish field-cred. Nothing screams “integrated and accepted” like getting into a 30 minute argument for 15% off your matatu ride or brochette. Indeed, scoring this victory not only assures your acceptance among locals but more importantly impresses the EAW’s who were previously paying the foreigner price. Of course, an EAW’s first win in the bargaining game must be accompanied by a celebratory blog post or facebook update. Bask in it.

Key to any successful bargain is the use of the local language. Is it broken? no problem. Do you speak in a pidgin version in which only 1/10 of any sentence is in the vendor’s language? Great! Establish your familiarity with the local culture from the 40 minutes you’ve spent with the Lonely Planet phrase-book. Make sure there are some new EAWs to watch you do this. Especially that hot one. Get those field cred points high enough and watch their clothing just fall off.

Extra points if you can somehow get so used to bargaining that you “forget” not to bargain in set-price stores of your home country. No doubt, this would be the crème de la crème merit badge for showing friends back home your nomad lifestyle.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2011 6:29 am

    In East Africa, you can’t pronounce it ‘bargaining’, it’s ‘barGAINing’

  2. Martha Wright permalink
    December 16, 2011 7:13 am

    Then you have your truly burnt-out EAWs who blab on & on about how tired they are of getting the mzungu price, and launch into the poor vendor who has never laid eyes on them before – ‘Ee! Do you think I’m a tourist?” and storm off indignantly. They didn’t really need another weird T-shirt from Village Thrift to be given away in a few weeks anyway…

  3. Johanna permalink
    December 16, 2011 9:44 am

    I’ve always found that real success is attained, when you barter down the price in the local currency, then decide to pay in USD and barter up the exchange rate. DOUBLE WIN! x

  4. December 17, 2011 5:26 am

    Ashamed while readin, but very true. Brilliantly written..

  5. It's not a compound, it's an urban village.... permalink
    December 20, 2011 10:20 am

    “Getting the vendor to charge you the local price will probably score you enough integration points to make up for living in a guarded compound.”


  6. January 4, 2012 5:03 am

    Great! I wrote a recent blog posting on the three different ways to haggle:

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