Tips on Shopping - Market Bargaining and Bargain Hunting

For newcomers arriving in Africa, the way of doing business in Ghana may be unfamiliar because they are used to items having clearly marked and prices fixed. In Ghanaian markets, and even some shops, commodities are worth whatever the seller can get for them and bargaining is the name of the game.

In the tourist markets such as the Arts Centre or vendors on the roadside, sellers will inevitably make their asking price high. Bargaining is very much expected and should always be done in a friendly way.

How then to go about negotiating reasonably? Given the wide range of goods and services offered and the even wider range of personalities selling those goods and services, there are no universal guidelines to be given. However, the following may provide some help, with this tip being the most important. Decide in advance what you are willing to pay or ask friends what they have paid in the past so that you have an idea of what the price should be, then let the bidding start!


You can go one or two different ways:

- The easier and quicker way is to rebut the initial (usually very high) price with a firm take-it-or-leave it offer. Not knowing what the seller's bottom line price really is, more often than not you're probably erring high, in which case the seller will jump at the sale. Pay your money, take your item and be happy with your deal.

- The second way to go is all-out negotiation: After hearing the seller's opening price, your first offer should always be lower than what you are really willing to pay. The seller will inevitably reduce his initial price and the bargaining process has begun. Remember, nobody will sell at a loss, so if your price is too low, the negotiation will continue. At some point, a perfect median will be established and you'll have your item and the seller will have your money.

One all-too-common occurrence is the dreaded "obroni" tax, whereby a vendor will assume that because you are a "foreigner" (i.e. an obroni) then you're "rich." If that's the case, the seller will not likely come down in price. Walk away. If the seller doesn't follow you, offer a slightly higher amount to a competitor. Repeat the process if necessary. In this way, over time you will establish a baseline.

Handicrafts and non-perishable items have a wider margin to bargain than foodstuffs. Often, food sellers will not change their price at all, but will add an extra tomato or so to generate goodwill and a (hopefully) repeat purchase. Some people think that they will get better prices if they send a Ghanaian shopping or bring a Ghanaian with them to do the bargaining. In some cases, this does work, provided that you stay entirely out of the picture, and that your "agent" sounds sincere enough that the seller believes the item is for him. When this approach doesn't work is when it's obvious that your agent has little use for the item being sold.

Some people will find the process of having to negotiate the price of everything to be hard work and tedious. Be that as it may, this mode of doing business is like every other – the less work you put in, the more money you will have to spend. The issue is striking a balance that suits you. It won't take as long as you think. If you totally hate bargaining, it is possible to purchase most anything you need at stores with fixed prices, but that misses the fun of African markets.


Last modified on Monday, 08 August 2011 22:14