HAGGLE LIKE A FISH WIFE
Because nothing says you've had a well-rounded cultural experience than a shiny, ill-fitting suit and a small painted wooden boat.
HOI AN HAGGLING GUIDE
e imagine, (now that you are a dong millionaire) you'll have arrived in Hoi An with the urge to buy enough counterfeit market goods and souvenirs to last you through to 2020. If so, you'll be over-the-moon to hear that Hoi An's got several markets, and they are are bursting at the seams with just that.
The first step is to build up an immunity against the traders with bulging eyes that stare right into your soul, the rapid fire Vietnamese and maniacal laughing that goes on between co-workers should you unwittingly show fear...
TOURIST MARKETS: There are two main markets - the new and much improved Cloth Market - an oversized, two storey shopping mall packed to the rafters with Hoi An's largest collection of holiday souvenirs; and the night market on An Hoi. Then there are the market streets, Bach Dang (riverside), Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (over the Japanese Bridge), and the market shops (all buildings in the old town that are not restaurants, fancy boutiques, cafes or to some extent - tailors). Every single one of these vendors sells exactly the same collection of lacquer art, ceramics, vegetable peelers, L Vuitton handbags, fridge magnets and ironically - Same same but different singlets.
NB: Everything is flammable and everything was probably not made by hand by the vendor's 99-year-old father.
8am - Cute Hoi An River Rat - ten dolla. 12:30pm - one dolla
this is not thailand
Take our word on this, we learnt to haggle in Hoi An and fly our well-honed haggling skills to BKK, annually. The art is not transferable - that first sale of the day? In Hoi An, it is always the first sale of the day and that sale (just like in Thailand), is the sale that sets the vendors luck for the day. The difference in Hoi An is that it is customary for your vendor to start negotiations at approximately 10-times the value of the chopstick/placemat set you've got your eye on, and customs say that thou shalt not cause a scene and a joyful negotiation process should commence. Ending with you accepting 10% off the obscene starting price with a smile.
In the busier tourist markets in Thailand, we've found vendors just want to get that sale out of the way and in most cases, they'll let that Rolex go for cost price.
To get the best deals here in Hoi An, you'll need the tenacity of a pitbull and the wiliness of a coyote.
To learn this, grab a bowl of noodles from one of the early morning vendors at the central market and spectate. If you are clever, involve your noodle vendor in the game - especially if she is one of the many fixed price vendors (she and her mates are already doing this - it's a national sport) - you will learn everything you need to know in five-minutes (even with language barriers). Body language is key.
Another good all-rounder is to learn to match the slightly unethical narrative presented - 'no sale today, very unlucky for me, no eat' with romanticised silly banter - With your beau? Honeymoon! Full stomach? Baby on way! This instantly puts the vendor on your side (as much as you can hope - she's still going to fleece you, but it'll be a much gentler affair), that way you'll leave with that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when everybody is happy at the end of a deal.
CLOTH MARKET TAILORS
Cloth Market Tailor (and for the foolish among us, shoemaker) Advice
This will be one of the few articles where we mention tailoring - it's over-hyped, visitors expectations are too high (a tailored dress shalt not transform you into Kate Moss) and there are seven million and eight blogs, reviews and articles floating around on the web should you want to ruin your holiday in Hoi An.
If you want good stuff, go to Yaly, Be Be, Lana, Wall Street or Oche.
If you are mad enough to entrust your hard earned dong with a 'bespoke' market shoemaker who's measuring technique includes drawing round your foot on the blank page of an exercise book - well, we'll excuse you, because we've done it a couple of times too. The best advice we can offer here, is to leave them unworn for several days to let the glue dry.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
At cloth market stalls there are no rules. Just keep in mind that haggling badly with the sales girl is like threatening your chef with a bad Yelp review - before they have cooked your meal. The result will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. If you are lucky, you'll just get kicked out.
However, should you have already put yourself through the ordeal, are currently being held prisoner by your tailor/shoemaker on the 27th fitting and things are looking bleak - there is a way out.
Hoi An Tourism have both a complaints office - 47, Phan Chau Trinh, and tourist hotline +84 235 3666 333 set-up for all visitors to Hoi An. The main complaints filed here are fashion crimes. They will step-in, mediate and get you back your deposit if things really have gone astray.
how much plea?
Though we'd love to be able to arm you with the exact mathematical formula to avoid all the hassle of a haggle, there isn't one. The clue is in the word 'market', where even the traders wholesale prices go up and down like a brides nighty daily. Common advice is to examine what you hope to purchase and decide what it's worth to you before you enter the battle arena; the problem with that is that is that the second you take up an invitation to enter the store the sales team will velcro themselves to you making unhurried browsing completely impossible.
A good tip is to shop during the Vietnamese lunch break (anytime between 12 and 1:30pm) when you'll find most staff huddled over a lunch banquet, or even better - sleeping. During this time sales come second to a full belly (Hoianian's take food and a good power nap very seriously), so you'll have the freedom to inspect their full stock at leisure. Haggling will be short lived and lack it's usual energy, and there is a small chance you'll come out of the experience with a genuine smile.
trade standards: Though many will tell you otherwise, Hoi An does have it's own trade standards; but only for tourists, and it's a bit secret. Get a written receipt (if they won't give you one freely, take a photo of the invoice they keep for records), if possible a photo of the staff member and the name and address of the shop (or stall number) and email it to this address with a short explanation of your grievances. They will step in and act on your behalf.
final words: Remember, bartering is an art form, if you're an asshole, then there is no way you'll get a transcendental time out of any of this. You're more likely to get stalked by a couple of toothless old ba's muttering "f*** you" in Vietnamese slang for the rest of your holiday, and you'll deserve it.
Fleeced? Come into our forum plea
Prefer your prices fixed and your clobber quality? Avoid the markets altogether and use this shopping guide