Why I Never Haggle
Whether it’s a vegetable market, a tuk-tuk, or overpriced cheap Chinese plastic goods, I never, ever haggle.
I actually have the money.
As the world sits right now, I get paid as a programmer at a US-based startup. Because we’re still small and bootstrapping, I make a fraction of what I’d make at one of the big companies - but I still make a lot by Thai standards. I’m able to have a nice apartment, reliable internet, and afford to get around town without trouble. I am fantastically lucky.
When I’m out at a market, combing the alleys of Chinatown, or visiting a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, I’m not interacting with folks who are driving around in Lamborghinis (more common here than you’d think.) These are regular folks with families trying to make a solid living, charging regular Thai people fair prices. Yes, some of them charge me more when I ask, “how much.”
When that happens, I have two choices:
1) Pay $1.75 instead of $1.25, or 2) Argue and try to convince the person that the thing that’s still really clearly a bargain for me at $1.75 I should only have to pay $1.25 for. Just because.
That’s ridiculous. I’d rather smile, pay a little more, be generous, and have that person be a little better off. If they were jerks about it, or if it really bugged me, I can go somewhere else next time. There are so, so many bigger, more important things to put my energy toward.
I am taking. I need to give back.
I have more thoughts on this that I’ll save for a more meaty discussion, but in short, here in Thailand, I use the roads, sewer system, electricity grid, subway, sky train, airports, water pipes, and internet. For all of that, I pay no taxes. You know who does? All those Thai people I’m buying from, at the market. The tuk-tuk drivers. The girl running the coffee-stand.
Call it paying for what I use, but instead of passing it off to a giant (possibly corrupt) government agency, I give it directly to the people who have to pay for it. It’s still not equitable, but it’s a start.
I tend to interact with people who aren’t ripping me off to start with.
I get to spend enough time in places that I find my regular spots - the vegetable vendor, the restaurant, the coffee stand. I find places that have great goods, food, and drinks, charge a fair price, and are lovely people.
Those are the people who end up with the majority of my money in Thailand, and that’s how it should be. As with anywhere you frequent no matter where you live, you support the people and things you want to have more of in the world.
One more thing.
There’s an addendum here, something you may have noticed in how I write about Thailand. I almost never mention how much something costs. Yes, the US dollar is really strong here, and yes, the cost of living is low. But frankly, that’s not relevant to why you should spend time in Thailand.
You should spend time in Thailand because it’s a beautiful country filled with some of the warmest, kindest, most wonderful people on Earth. You should spend time here because the food is best-in-your-lifetime good. You should visit for the light and the shadow. For the powerful rains and the body-withering heat. For the smiles.
Even if Thailand cost more to stay than it did where you’re from, it would still be worth spending time here. It’s really that good.