Test: Vietnamese salesmen do not haggle

In Economy on April 19, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka

According to the server, haggling is a mandatory part of the shopping procedure in Vietnam. It is a game, the server writes. There are thousands of Vietnamese businessmen in the Czech Republic who are known for selling cheap clothes, shoes or toys. They do not haggle, my own test showed.

Number one: small shack next to the Brno main train station. When I pretended I wanted to buy running shoes that do not have to pretty. “I need really ordinary shoes for running in the woods,” I said to the salesman. “These cost CZK 450 but I can get similar shoes for CZK 350 almost next door.” The young man who did not seem older than thirty just smiled politely but did not react.

Number two: a few “doors” down the Vietnamese market stall had a Czech employee. It seemed pointless to try Vietnamese haggling strategies on her… “Are these fixed prices?” I asked anyway. “I heard that you can try to haggle in Vietnam.” “The owner defined the prices. I am not gonna haggle with you, I have never done it,” she said.

Number three: at the bus station. You would expect shops and cafes and similar services that travellers usually need or require. No, there are Vietnamese “huts” selling junk at the main bus station in Brno (of course, there are some cafes, too). “I need a bag like this, but not for CZK 300,” I tried my strategy again. The Vietnamese clerk responded kindly: “If you want to spend CZK 200, we have these, they are somewhat smaller…” but when I tried to put the bag back… “Okay, CZK 200,” she changed her mind.

I tried six times, only one person responded to haggling attempts, which – I think – confirms what the server wrote: “Haggling must be a traditional aspect of the nation’s culture, so that (almost) everybody can profit from it. When somebody gets a really good deal, somebody else must compensate it”.


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