Don't forget the power of basic kindness
Going straight into the transaction is probably instinct for most of us. We see what we want. We buy it. We leave.
Do: Be friendly to shopkeepers -- ask them about their day, build some trust in the business relationship. Shopkeepers are trying to make a living, sure, but they’re also just people. Chat in the local language, even a little, and smile.
If I’m in a town for just a few days or hours, I’ve had shopkeepers give my friends and me discounts when I revisit their shop or offer tea because I took the time to start a conversation beyond business. While visiting Pokhara, Nepal, I struck a conversation with a jewelry dealer. As I perused his store, we chatted about US politics, the weather, family, and our favorite Nepali foods. I bought a silver bell-shaped earring, and he offered me tea, which I obliged. The next time I visited, he remembered me and a discount to my visiting relative.
Don't forget to ask if there's a price tag
So at this point, you’ve done your research, consulted with a friend, and already engaged in a hopefully pleasant conversation with the shop attendant. Now, my friends, it’s time to ask the important question: How much?
Do: Pop that tag. Some shops or taxi stands have listed prices, and if you don’t check, you might start your haggling too high. At that point, there’s no turning back. Once, exhausted from a work trip in Nepal, I once tried to bargain a taxi from the Kathmandu airport to my house 15 minutes away without realizing the system had fixed rates. I ended up paying $10 when the fixed price was $8.
Also, some people are offended if you try to bargain down an existing price tag. Imagine walking into a grocery story and telling the cashier “I know the price for Cheerios is $3, but I’d rather pay $1.50.” C’mon.