It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you like a particular thing on your way travelling, you should snatch is while you can, because the chances are you will probably never see it again if you don’t. Also, there is another undeniable truth while shopping: your enthusiasm to buy, and attachment to the things mean, in most cases you won’t get you a bargain. So what should you do? Well, read on to know; here are our 5 tips on shopping while travelling in Saigon
Tip No. 1: Know where you’re shopping
The title of this first tip is basically a fancy way to say “remember to google the place you will shop”. Maybe this isn’t a very big deal if you’re travelling in some countries, but in Vietnam, at least in Saigon, it does matter. It matters alot. Knowing where you are and what you are dealing with definitely helps with bargaining to right price. Let’s consider a few prominent shopping centers in Saigon:
Ben Thanh Market: This place, like any place with the word “market” in Vietnam, is savage in terms of fluctuating prices. My mom used to tell me for any item they sell, they make up to 80% in profit. This is a myth that I can’t decide is true or not, even now. Ben Thanh Market was a very prominent shopping place for tourists (I even heard that they shoo Vietnamese away and only wait for tourists). Now due to sky-high prices and the over-enthusiasm of the merchants (that includes, but not limited to: take you by the hand, drag you to their stalls and unwanted promotion of unneeded products, etc.) it has become less attractive in the foreigners’ eyes. But if you drift there, and find yourself falling in love with a piece of shiny lacquerware or a fancy silk dress, prepare to bargain a lot; and by “a lot”, I mean a whole lot!
Saigon Square: This department store chain has been around for about 10 years now and it’s basically the same as a mall, but instead of brand names or flagship stores, you’ll find stalls and merchants like there are in Ben Thanh Market. In term of price, this place is more reasonable than the markets, but you would still need to bargain down a good 20%-40% for the best price.
Sense Market: Relatively new and tourists-friendly, you can find almost anything in Sense Market. I specially recommend the food court, because personally I like food, and you won’t be ripped off here in terms of food. The shopping area is nice too, it is never intolerably crowded and even has air conditioning to shield you from the scorching sun outside. The goods are variable and plenty, and reasonably priced. Even so, feel free to bargain down about 10% if you want to.
If your planned shopping destination does not fall in any of these prominent places, there’s still a way to know the reasonable price; you observe what the locals pay. Tourists almost always pay more than locals for the same goods and services. Merchants perceive you, an outsider, as wealthy compared to the local population whether it’s true or not. However, you can gain a bargaining edge by learning how much the locals pay. Although you probably won’t get the same price, it’s a good starting point.
Tip No. 2: Triple bargaining
This tip I make is not 100% based on experience alone but I even have a psychological explanation for this. This trick is a real psychological method, sometimes known as the door in the face approach: you should preface what you really want with something outlandish. If you start out by asking for something completely outrageous, chances are an individual will agree to your second, more-reasonable request. For example, if you ask someone for a $1000 in donation for a charity event, I’d say it’s a good 99% chance they’ll say no. But if you follow up asking for a simple $25 donation (the amount you actually wanted in the first place) you’re much more likely to get it than if you’d started out asking for the $25.
The same goes for this bargaining tip of mine, but I recommend you do it 3 times: if you are willing to pay $30, you should start with $20, then $25, and finally the desired amount, $30.
Tip No. 3: Show your best poker face
Having a good Poker Face is one of the most important skills to learn while travelling to Saigon. Whether it is to refuse the street vendors or say no to a very persistent lottery boy, having a poker face helps. This is also true in bargaining. Vietnamese merchants are extremely adeptsharp at smelling out your attachment to their goods, and will more likely charge you a higher at the very least. They may assume that you will pay any price to own it. Therefore you will have a harder time bargaining. So, next time, if you really like something and would like to buy it without being ripped off, try to look indifferent, avoid eye contact (even walk away if needed be) and bring out your bargaining A-game!
Tip No. 4: Shop around
Most Vietnamese merchants are quite open on this. In my experience, most of the things you can find in markets or on merchant stalls can be found elsewhere. There’s high chance that you can find others with different prices, and if you’re lucky, much cheaper than the first price you were offered. So, in short, when you go shopping in Vietnam, remember to check out as many stalls as you can and then compare the price. If it’s too outrageous, feel free to walk way, but preferably after you have struck a deal. You may have to come back to that merchant later. Otherwise it could be awkward.
Tip no 5: Stay positive
I know this might sound cliché, but after purchasing something if you find out that you have been ripped off try your best to stay positive. Your money is spent, and in most cases irretrievable. Vacationing is about fun and enjoyment, not regretting the $5 you have been overcharged 3 days ago. It’s all about perspective, I can tell you; take Titanic, it was a maritime disaster and Jack died because Rose couldn’t just scoop over, but for the lobsters in the ship’s kitchen, it was a miracle. The same goes to this unpleasant experience that you might have to suffer, yes, it is a bad and unfortunate one, but it is definitely a lesson to remember.
These are our top 5 tips for a rip off-free shopping trip in Saigon. Have a try and wait to see the magic the next time you come to our city! We also offer customizable tours to suite your interest in shopping in Saigon!
By Kieu Anh from Lose The Tie Team