Practice Makes Perfect: The Art of Bargaining in Markets in Ghana
My best friend has been living in Ghana for the past year, but has traveled back and forth to the city since 2009. One of the many great things about this, is that she's developed amazing bargaining skills! Before we went shopping at the markets she schooled my friends and me on the art of bargaining in Ghana. I admit it's hard, but just like everything else, the more you do it the easier it becomes!
Here are 5 key tips to help you successfully bargain in markets in Ghana:
1. Make a list of the items you want.
There are hundreds of vendors in Ghana selling literally everything! Some of these vendors will be really persistent in trying to get you to buy from them. Make it easier for yourself and go with a plan to buy certain items. This will make your shopping experience more focused and less stressful. Some of the must-have items on my list were masks, fabric, black soap, Shea butter, and jewelry. But, leave a little room for spontaneity in your list. You may find that you come across items that are really unique that you didn't know about.
Prior to going to the major souvenir places like the Arts Centre and Makola Market, we stopped by the vendors on Oxford street to get an idea of the types of things people were selling. One vendor showed me a Bakita, a West African instrument similar to egg shakers, but it's tied together. He then proceeded to give a mini performance using the Bakita. Considering my appreciation for music (I played the violin for many years) and this memorable experience, I was set on buying the Bakita, which wasn't on my original list.
2. Know how much you want to pay for an item in advance.
Once you have your list, have an idea of how much you want to pay for each item. My reference point for finding fair prices was comparing the cost of the same item at home. For example, I know I can get a small container of African Black soap in Harlem for $5, so since I'm going directly to the source it should be much cheaper. When I was in the Arts Centre one vendor attempted to sell the soap for 25 cedis/ $5 and wouldn't back down on the price, so we walked away. When we were at Makola Market, we came across a lady selling a hand-sized chunk of black soap for 3 cedis/ $0.76! ::praise dance::
Brush up on Mental Math
3. Know your conversion rates.
Currently $1 is equal to 3.97 Ghanaian cedis. Knowing your conversion rates in advance will definitely help you in the bargaining process because you will know whether or not the price they are giving you is ridiculous. It's common, for me at least, to first hear a price and automatically think in my currency and say "oh no, I'm not paying that!" For example, 80 cedis sounds like a lot, but it's actually about $20.
4. Let the vendor make the first price.
When you get to a vendor, let them make the price first and then start your bargaining at half of the initial price and then add 2 cedis until you come to an agreement.
5. Don't be afraid to walk away.
I did most of my shopping at the Arts Centre, because it was easier to navigate and more manageable compared to Makola Market, which is a really crowded shopping district.
Here's an example of an exchange between me and a vendor that is common at the market:
Vendor: (after first round of bargaining) Give me your best price.
Me: I gave you my best price already
Vendor: You can do better
Me: umm no I can't. Bye. (walks away and another vendor invites me into his shop).
While I'm at the next vendor about five minutes later the first vendor came to me and offered me the necklace at "my best price"! Score!
Moral of the story is stick to your price, if that person doesn't want to budge, there are so many other vendors you can check out. Or the vendor may surprise you and eventually come around.
What are your favorite bargaining tips? Let me know in the comments!