Bargaining is a way of life in Morocco. If you are a visible minority, expect to have a premium on top of the inflated tourist pricing. This goes for both goods and taxi rides.
Follow my tips and you’ll have a spectacular time! Thanks to my upbringing, bargaining is the 100m heat at the Olympics and I am Usain Bolt.
I have been trained since birth by one of the best negotiators I have ever met: my mother. As a purchaser for Taiwanese companies and subsidiaries ranging from industrial chemicals to Pierre Cardin, her track record speaks for itself.
As her spawn, I too have developed a craving for the high you get from making a deal. So here are a few tips to help you slash prices up to 80% (my personal best in Morocco):
Talk Strategy to Me
Dissing a product will not help you get a better deal. It will just make you seem like a ****! Other than the argument of basic human decency, Moroccan vendors especially are proud of their culture, their heritage, and their products. Don’t spoil their day by saying mean things. A great negotiation should leave all parties happy. Remember to greet the vendor appropriately when entering the shop!
You’re Parters in Problem-Solving
“We” language moves mountains; me versus you builds them. Approach transactions like a common problem you’re trying to solve. You are not a gladiators in a fight to the death. You are friends finding a mutually beneficial agreement.
Show Interest but Not Desire (Most of the Time)
In the medinas, most vendors are businessmen, not artists. Show your interest in several products, but do not reveal your preferences. If you see a pair of Babouche slippers that you absolutely need in your life, try them on along with a few other pairs. Don’t give the businessman any indication of your preferences.
Once in a while, however, you will be able to find a shop owned by the creator. They will be proud to share their inspiration and their craft. In general, these artists will drive a harder bargain than the businessmen. Read the situation! If they want to teach you a lot about their trade, they most likely will respond better to an emotional appeal (e.g. “I really love this product, but I can not afford it.”); if they are more emotionally removed from the product, a realistic, transactional approach would be more appropriate.
Understand the Going Rate
If you have a few pieces in mind (e.g. you’re going to Fes with the intention of buying a leather bag), ask your riad for the price locals generally pay. This is particularly important for taxi rides. That way, you will be able to…
Be Firm with your Bottom Line
Enter negotiations with an idea of how much you’re willing to pay. Stand firm, and do not hesitate. Hesitation leave space for more convincing.
Understand There are Tons of Alternatives
In other words, your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) looks pretty good. If you can not come to an agreement, fear not. There’s probably the same product three stands down.
Bargaining with cab drivers is basically just understanding the going rate, being firm with your bottom line, and knowing that there are most likely tons of taxis nearby. Unfortunately, sometimes the drivers will band together to enact monopoly pricing, which is unfortunate. But more often than not, you will be able to find a nice taxi driver nearby who will be willing to take you for a fraction of the price.
Now, to buy goods, tactics are needed.
Because they probably highballed you. If their first offer is ridiculously high, counter with a ridiculously low number. They’ll scoff at your counter, just as you should scoff at their initial position. Then you can work together to meet somewhere in the middle.
Bring a Friend if Not for the Company, then for the Leverage
Good cop bad cop works wonders. If your friend has their eye on something, be that person who shows little interest. Pull them away from the shop. Your friend (the good cop) should show reluctance to leave. You (the bad cop) should repeatedly say you saw a better deal a few shops down. This will signal to the shopkeeper that you understand there are many similar products metres away. They will then start to negotiate seriously much faster.
This works better if you speak fluent Arabic or French so there’s less of a language barrier. If the negotiations are in absolute numbers and you aren’t getting anywhere
They offer 450 MAD
You counter with 100 MAD
They counter with 440 MAD
You counter with 120 MAD…
And the shop is full of other buyers who are looking to make a deal, you can tell the vendor to just give you X% off and call it a day. Convince him you’ll be out of his hair so he’ll be able to make more money helping other customers. Sometimes the percentage value sounds better and if you are able to do some quick mental math, you could end up with an awesome deal.
If you like more than one item, throw them in at the very end of the negotiation for a steeper discount. For example, you see two pairs of pants. You negotiate the first pair down to 45 MAD. By the time you arrive at this rate which you deem acceptable, say that you’ll also buy another pair if they charge you 70 MAD in total. If they agree, you’ll end up paying (70/2) 35 MAD each. The marginal cost (the cost of the second pair is only 25 MAD). The more you buy, the steeper your discount can be. If you’re only buying two pairs, a total offer of 50 MAD would sound ridiculous (since the marginal cost is only 5 MAD), but if you buy four pairs in total, an offer of 120 MAD doesn’t sound too crazy (sums to 30 MAD each).
My absolute favourite. If the vendor is nowhere near your target price, walk away. Nine times out of ten, they’ll chase after you to close the deal.
At the end of the day, bargaining is just an advanced exercise in reading people. It gets better with practice! I’d love to hear if these tips work out for you.
Check out my other posts to make travelling in Morocco as easy as pie by clicking on the links or the the next/previous buttons below: