Haggling 101: How not to haggle for bargains

But for that one time in Istanbul, I'm terrible at haggling. Always have been. I usually start feeling sorry for the vendors I am haggling with and end up wanting to barter the price up instead of down. It always seems I have so much, and they have so little.

Ah, but Istanbul. I was 22 years old, and had my eyes on a floor-length royal blue afghan coat in the Grand Bazaar. Boy, did I go for it. I wrung my hands, I furrowed my brow, I emptied my pockets of coins. I did such a good job, the bloke even started crying. In hindsight, they would have been tears of joy, because nobody else in the world would ever want a floor-length royal blue afghan coat, but still.

So why would you listen to me? Because I know what not to do.

Don't show you have a lot of money on you. This is easy for many of us, because we don't have a lot of money on us. And don't buy anything just because you think it's a bargain. Especially a house, a car, or a bunch of "Lacoste" polo shirts on the streets of Hong Kong. When I gave them to my brother-in-law for Christmas, all the little crocodile insignias fell off as he unwrapped them.

You need to know when you can haggle, and when you can't. Bazaars and street markets, fine. Shopping malls and department stores not necessarily, although a gentle "is this your best price?" can work wonders.

You should also know the going rate for whatever it is you want (ask your tour guide, hotel concierge, a local). Work out what you are willing to pay, and stop there. Also, make sure you are both haggling in the same currency, preferably the local one.

The deal-breaker is The Walk. If you can't get the price you want, walk away. If they don't follow, they're just not interested in the sale. At that point, even though it might kill your pride, you're allowed to go back and take their last offer.

So here's my haggling masterclass: When they say $100, you say $50. When they say $90, you say $55. When they say $85, you say $60. Mathematically (not my strong point) you will potentially meet in the middle at $75, which is 25 per cent off the original price. Not bad.

That said, enjoy the process, respect your protagonist, have a laugh when it's over, and start practicing your dinner party story on how you drove such a hard bargain.